Strong Arm of the Law

Hollywood's Police Officer of the Year has been accused of sexual battery, manslaughter, and brutality

Marano has maintained that Salvo's showboat mentality and trouble with authority have caused the problems. He simply has an "axe to grind," Marano said in a statement to IA. Once, while holding office as a PBA representative, Salvo escorted his narcotics dog through the Hollywood police station's men's locker room. He claimed the dog smelled drugs in a police officer's locker. A second K-9 unit failed to detect illegal substances. A search was never conducted. "I felt that was inappropriate behavior for a PBA rep," Marano commented.

Last year, the conflict between the two officers boiled over when pension board seats came up for reelection. Salvo was on the ballot. In the days preceding the election, he distributed a flier on a day Marano was off. It read: "Re-elect Pete Salvo. He is good for our pension and represents everyone's interest. NOT JUST MARANO'S."

Salvo received a written reprimand, the only time in the last decade that he has been disciplined.

Allegations of police misconduct have dogged the Hollywood Police Department for more than a decade.
Allegations of police misconduct have dogged the Hollywood Police Department for more than a decade.
Pete Salvo, at far left, and other Hollywood police officers demonstrated against former Chief Rick Stone in September 1998.
Pete Salvo, at far left, and other Hollywood police officers demonstrated against former Chief Rick Stone in September 1998.

"You have any interest in going narcotics?" Salvo remembered the chief asking him. The reasoning was simple: Salvo would no longer work under Marano.

Strange, then, that when New Times called, the lieutenant defended his colleague. "I can't say a bad word about Pete Salvo," Marano says, sitting at a desk on the fourth floor of police headquarters. "He's a good guy and a good cop."

If Salvo has been accused of excessive use of force, Marano says, it's not because he's a thug. It's because he's doing his job. "Look at my record," Marano says. "I've had complaints against me for excessive use of force. It goes with the territory."

In the mid-'90s, Marano led Hollywood's infamous Street Crimes Unit, formerly known as the Raiders. The black-shirted, tough-on-crime unit drew a string of complaints and lawsuits that alleged brutality, wrongful arrests, and civil rights violations. In 1998, a federal jury awarded 21-year-old Dwight Edman $750,000 after Marano admitted that police had no probable cause to arrest him on drug charges. The city is currently appealing the award.

"A good, aggressive cop is going to get complaints, most unwarranted," Marano says. "A lug isn't going to get any complaints. Pete Salvo is a good, aggressive cop."


Allegations of police misconduct have dogged the Hollywood Police Department for more than a decade. Throughout the '90s, as Marano's Raiders were accused of abusing citizens and trampling on civil rights, the city earned a reputation for scandal.

In 1997, Hollywood fired Police Chief Richard Witt after he attempted to blow the whistle on hiring practices that allowed applicants with criminal records and histories of prisoner abuse to join the force. That same year, six Hollywood SWAT team officers were removed from a North Florida military base -- where they were training -- when they vandalized facilities in a drunken stupor. Around the same time, federal juries awarded two female officers six-figure judgments after finding that they had been sexually harassed throughout their careers.

The department's problems with brutality, battery, and false arrests are even more troubling. Police legal adviser Cantor downplays the significance. "I think my numbers, the number of lawsuits I've received to this office, have gone down in recent years," Cantor says.

But that isn't entirely true. In 2001, seven people filed notice to sue the city for excessive use of force, battery, or false arrest. Six more did so in 2002, followed by another six in 2003. So far this year, five people have notified the city of their upcoming legal actions for excessive use of force or false arrest. "Most people think that when police brutality happens, it's some crazy, rogue cop out there by himself," says Kamau, of the Police Complaint Center. "That's not the case. It's generally some rogue cop who has the help of other officers to cover up his conduct."

In Miami and Fort Lauderdale, citizen review boards were created after allegations of police brutality reached fever pitch. Both have had some success in overseeing local law enforcement. Last week, for instance, Miami-Dade's Independent Review Panel faulted police for using excessive force in the recent Free Trade of the Americas riots.

Hollywood has never created such a panel and doesn't track brutality claims. "I'd like to see a citizen review board in Hollywood," says Henry Graham, a community activist in Hollywood's Liberia neighborhood. "Residents have to be involved if we're going to look seriously into claims that the police are heavy-handed."

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