Stationhouse Capo

Marano uses his union position to reward loyalists and manipulate the brass, critics say

Late last summer, Lt. Jeffrey Marano got wind of fliers making their way around the Hollywood Police Department announcing the "BPO First Annual Picnic" to be held in August at Ty Park. In police parlance, BPO stands for black police officer. Marano was alarmed.

After getting a look at one of the handbills, Marano fired off a brief memo to Chief James Scarberry, describing the planned picnic as "discriminatory in nature" because "some officers were excluded based upon race." Two days later, Marano received a response from the city's human resources manager, Denese Edsall, who had looked into the matter and concluded that the city had neither sponsored nor paid for the event. She wrote, "Simply having an organization based upon race is not discriminatory and in fact, there are many professional organizations specifically dedicated to mentoring professionals of specific race, creed or culture." She considered the matter closed.

But for Marano, who has built his career on carving out and protecting departmental turf with the ferocity of a pit bull, the matter stuck in his craw. Despite a career riddled with complaints and lawsuits that would have ended the careers of most police officers, Marano is a powerful behind-the-scenes figure in the Hollywood Police Department. He's long been secretary of the Broward County Police Benevolent Association, a position that had given Marano the juice he needed to control lucrative off-duty details and influence assignments for cops on the force. To Marano, a gathering of black officers could mean only one thing: a threat to him and the union. His overriding concern about the picnic, it turned out, was not whether it was racially exclusive but whether the so-called BPO had articles of incorporation and constitutional bylaws, making it a formal organization capable of representing a faction of cops.

Police Lt. Jeffrey Marano's grip is tight.
Police Lt. Jeffrey Marano's grip is tight.

Marano filed a formal complaint against Sgt. Norris Redding for organizing a picnic that allegedly excluded white officers. Redding fired back with a complaint of his own: that Marano had created a hostile work environment. After a six-month investigation into the charges, Scarberry ruled both allegations unfounded. Scarberry didn't explain the basis of his decision, and he's not talking to the press about the matter. Nor are Marano and Redding. But a review of the dozens of depositions from Hollywood cops reveals that Marano appears to possess a stranglehold on the department.

Consider the spirit in which some officers testified about Marano to the three retired FBI agents who conducted the probe. "Well," Officer Randy Shipley said edgily, as if a snarling gorilla might at any moment jump out of a closet, "let me start by saying that I believe by giving this statement now at this time, I could definitely be retaliated against by speaking against Lt. Marano, and Chief Scarberry should be made well aware of the way I feel about this -- and that I want to give this statement because I believe it's the right thing to do."

Shipley recognized that Marano had managed to survive the Hollywood Police Department's scandal-plagued years in the 1990s. Often at the center of some high-profile controversies, Hollywood's own Teflon cop not only came out unscathed but managed to move up the ladder. In 2002, Scarberry promoted him to lieutenant.

Such a development must have seemed unlikely in late 1995, when Marano, then a 45-year-old sergeant, and Officer Mike Saffran were linked to a prostitution ring run by Tammy McGovern, who had gained infamy as the "Hollywood Madam." Some of McGovern's hookers told authorities that Marano and Saffran were frequent visitors at the brothel. McGovern told the State Attorney's Office that she'd known the two officers for more than ten years and offered their police friends discounts, as reported in the Sun-Sentinel. "Yeah, there was a special arrangement," she said. "If they brought any of their police officer buddies over, they would get a discount rate of $50." She said Saffran even tipped her off about a police raid once. After passing a lie detector test, she was offered immunity for testifying before a Broward grand jury, though the panel ultimately declined to indict any police officers.

Then-Chief Richard Witt suspended Marano and Saffran for two weeks for associating with McGovern, but he said there wasn't enough evidence to warrant stiffer punishment. Though it seemed improbable, both denied knowing that McGovern was involved in prostitution.

A year later, Marano was at the center of the department's most notorious scandal of the decade. Members of the Hollywood Raiders, a street crimes unit focusing on illegal drug sales and prostitution, were accused of falsifying reports and mistreating suspects. In one case in January 1996, Marano and his partner, Anthony Fernandez, while undercover, arrested two young men for selling the cops a fake cocaine rock. Fernandez and Marano signed affidavits attesting that 20-year-old Jerome Watson of Dania Beach sold the rock to Marano for $20, then handed the money to Dwight Edman, a 19-year-old from Hollywood.

But Marano admitted, in a deposition taken later by Raaj Singhal, Edman's attorney, that Edman wasn't even involved in the sale. Singhal learned that officers in the street crimes unit routinely pre-signed hundreds of blank forms that are attached to police affidavits recounting how and why an arrest was made. Officers were supposed to read the final typed reports, then sign off on them, attesting to their veracity. In this case, however, cops weren't even reading the final reports; the signed pages were simply attached by whoever happened to be collating documents. The charges against Edman were dropped after Singhal went to Assistant State Attorney John Countryman with information about Marano's testimony that the signed affidavit didn't accurately represent Edman's involvement.

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