Tender Loving Justice

Give the Kid — er, My Kid — a Break

Zero tolerance is all the rage in law enforcement circles these days. Rule-breakers — even the puniest, least significant of them — get the book thrown at them. Marginally tipsy drivers? Grade-school kids with penknives? Pot-smoking grandmothers with cataracts? Cuff 'em, book 'em, and put 'em in a cell with a 300-pound dude named Spike.

Then there's the Wilton Manors Police Department, which takes a much more enlightened approach — especially if the rule-breaker involved happens to be a friend or relative of departmental brass or City Hall bigwigs.

Tailpipe was particularly touched by the department's handling of the case of Zachary Carroll. One evening last February, the lovable Florida Atlantic University junior drank 18 beers and went on a one-man car wrecking rampage in an FAU parking lot, bashing car windows and uprooting at least one side-view mirror. Just for the fun of it, of course. When campus cops got to the scene, the bear-like Carroll, who weighs 300 pounds and stands taller than six feet, spat on one officer and charged another. Officer Mary Ann Douglas pulled out her service revolver and shot Carroll twice.

Carroll, after recovering from his injuries, was expelled from the school; in lieu of jail time on charges of aggravated assault and resisting arrest, he agreed to participate in an 18-month "pretrial intervention" program.

Fine. The 'Pipe is all for keeping repentant young people out of the state corrections system, where they could easily get funneled onto that depressing criminal recidivist track.

But, you ask, what does this have to do with the Wilton Manors P.D.? Well, six weeks ago, who should show up at department headquarters as an intern/errand boy but a smiling, very repentant Zachary Carroll. Dismayed police officers were miffed not just at having in their midst an apparent criminal, there as part of his court-ordered community service requirement, but they expressed concern for the sanctity of police records.

"The officers feel really betrayed," one departmental source told this automotive part. "He's got access to all the reports. It's a stab in the heart for them."

The cops' cynicism about coddling young offenders was given a hefty jolt when they learned that Carroll is Police Chief Richard Perez's nephew.

The chief brushes off his officers' concerns, noting that, as of last Monday, Carroll is no longer with the department. "He just did odd jobs," Perez says, "whatever anybody needed him to do. He didn't do anything confidential. He filed papers. A lot of menial tasks. He didn't have access to anything that was confidential."

What about the appropriateness of assigning a would-be assailant on a police officer to do community service with a police department?

"What better way to say you're sorry?" Perez said.

Then there was Stephanie Newton's wobbly, brass-assisted route into law enforcement. The daughter of Wilton Manors Mayor Scott Newton, Stephanie, 23, couldn't pass the physical for employment by the Pembroke Pines P.D. After she either failed or opted out of her physical profile three times (once dropping out with a "swollen ankle," then failing the test twice, even after she had hired a personal trainer for seven weeks), she was dismissed as a Pembroke Pines trainee.

Then, fortuitously, the Wilton Manors P.D. agreed to sponsor her for the last three weeks of BCC police academy. Whatever else you say about Stephanie, she was consistent. The academy was willing to give her another shot at the test, but when the day arrived, she opted out again. She had been bitten on the knee by a brown recluse spider. (This is a once-in-a-lifetime excuse, and Tailpipe is filing it for an occasion when he really needs a day off.)

According to personnel documents, Stephanie finally met all state requirements and, fortuitously again, got assigned to the Broward Sheriff's Office. Her field training took place in peaceable Lauderdale-by-the-Sea — widely recognized as a cupcake assignment and, according to police sources, "unheard of" as a training ground.

Like a lot of other police departments, the Wilton Manors P.D. is roiled with morale problems. On September 17, most of the department's police officers took an informal vote, showing overwhelming support for the department's being absorbed by BSO. This week, the rank and file officially voted with two out of three favoring the BSO option. Some officers say they'd rather take their chances with BSO in contract negotiations. Others say the air of nepotism and cronyism in their department is just getting too thick to breathe.

Muffled Marathoner

Some marathon runners train at high altitudes so they can kick more ass at sea level. Some swim laps to build their stamina. Victoria Park's very own Dennis Marsella takes 20-mile runs down Las Olas and A1A wearing a pair of old, beat-up dress shoes and a heavy coat — to give himself superhuman powers.

For more than 20 years, the colorful high-on-lifer has competed in marathons across the nation wearing penny loafers, work boots, or even wingtip dress shoes (his standard). Oversized garments too: usually a thick denim jacket. As a pièce de résistance, he always runs holding a pizza box containing angel food cake topped with an apple cider vinegar bottle. (You gotta see it to believe it.)

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