Hollywood's Finest

After even a police chief called them unfit, these officers continue to patrol Hollywood's streets

Scarberry didn't buy the excuses. "The message has got to be that if you use drugs, illegal drugs, felony drugs, and you're a police officer with the City of Hollywood, you're going to be terminated," Scarberry testified.

On March 23, 2000, Scarberry fired Joynt. But the officer appealed the termination, alleging that the drug test should be invalidated because the officer who took his hair sample did not wear rubber gloves. The case went to arbitration.

"The chronic use was recognized in the largest quantity of the hair, not in any sort of residue that might have been introduced into the sample," Scarberry testified.

Officer Nick Singley was hired despite lacking "maturity and self-control," according to a psychological report.
Miami Herald
Officer Nick Singley was hired despite lacking "maturity and self-control," according to a psychological report.
Witnesses alleged that Officer Christina Rodriguez threw a beer bottle during a bar fight in downtown Hollywood.
Witnesses alleged that Officer Christina Rodriguez threw a beer bottle during a bar fight in downtown Hollywood.

On April 11, 2001, arbitrator James E. Carnicella ruled against the department. The arbitrator ordered that Joynt be suspended for 90 days without pay and subjected to three random drug tests within six months.

Scarberry admits that, after having assigned Joynt to a desk job for the past five years, he recently agreed to put him back on patrol. "Brian Joynt's commanding officers came to me and explained that they believe he is ready again for the responsibility," Scarberry says.

Florida law prohibits law enforcement agencies from hiring an officer who has used illegal drugs within the three years preceding employment.

"Brian Joynt has taken responsibility," Capt. Rode says. "He made mistakes and owned up to them. Now he wants a second chance. I think he deserves that much."

THE FUTURE

Hollywood Police Officers Christina Rodriguez, Vinicio Perez, and Brian Joynt illustrate a major problem in law enforcement, not just in Hollywood but across the United States. Applicants who are hired despite bad or questionable backgrounds often turn into bad cops. It's a lesson that South Florida should have learned in the late 1980s, when about 100 cops were arrested, fired, or suspended in Miami-Dade County in what became known as the Miami River cops scandal. Those officers were hired in a hurry after the Mariel boatlift despite involvement by some in street gangs. After joining the force, several were convicted of cocaine theft and murder.

The former assistant chief of the Miami Beach Police Department, Scarberry knows what kind of havoc applicants with questionable backgrounds can cause when given guns and badges. For that reason -- among others -- Scarberry says he will not offer employment in Hollywood to anyone with troubling psychological exams or significant background problems. In fact, 33 law enforcement positions remain unfilled in the city, he says, because "I haven't had applicants who can pass the psychological exam."

The chief believes that background and psychological reports can predict behavior. "They will fit the officer to a T," he says.

Yet Scarberry has no intention of terminating any of the officers hired a decade ago during Hollywood's hiring scandal. "A decision was made before me not to fire those officers," Scarberry says dismissively. "The city didn't do it then. It's not my place to do it now."

The hiring scandal's cost to taxpayers and public safety can be quantified: 11 lawsuits, as much as $1 million in settlements and legal fees, dozens of allegedly brutalized citizens and visitors, and 30 officers on the street who a hired expert said had background or psychological problems.

"It's shocking," says Andre Brown, a 46-year-old Hollywood resident and community activist. "Should these guys still be on the force? No. They are a threat to our community. We trust in police officers, and this shows that we can't trust them in Hollywood. A federal investigation into the Police Department is overdue."

"I don't think the commission has ever been presented with this information -- that so many of these officers have remained on the force," City Commissioner Sal Oliveri says of the New Timesinvestigation. "Certainly this sounds like something that needs to be addressed."

Editor's note: This is the latest in a series of articles about the Hollywood Police Department. You can read others at www.newtimesbpb.com/special_reports/hollywood.

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