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.
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.
Countryman considered prosecuting Marano and Fernandez but could find no "provable crime." In the conclusion of his investigation at the end of 1996, he wrote, "Even though Sgt. Marano and Officer Fernandez's explanations of this 'mistake' could fairly be characterized as implausible, they are not provably false."
As for departmental discipline, then-Chief Rick Stone gave the two cops letters of reprimand for violating one department policy in the arrest. Edman subsequently sued the officers and the city for violating his civil rights and was awarded $750,000 in December 1998 by a federal jury. The case is under appeal, and Edman has yet to see any money, Singhal says.
At the time, Chief Stone had little to say publicly about Countryman's investigation. But by early 1998, Stone began challenging Marano. In May of that year, he transferred Marano from road patrol to the Telephone Reporting Unit, which handled nonemergency phone reports of crimes and general questions by the public. Marano claimed the move was to hinder his union activities. Stone claimed that the union was manipulating his department's management and that he was trying to regain control.
Led in part by Marano, the union campaigned for Stone's termination. Banners calling for his resignation were flown from planes. Leaflets questioning his ability and character were passed around neighborhoods. At one point, some officers grew goatees to "get Stone's goat" because he didn't care for facial hair on cops. Stone resigned in October 1998 and sued the city two years later. In the suit, he alleged that soon after becoming chief, Marano and Dick Brickman, who was a sergeant with the Hollywood police and also the president of the Broward County Police Benevolent Association, told him that it was "payback time" for certain command staff who had crossed them. Stone said that he refused to cooperate with the PBA's vendetta and that the union leadership turned against him. The suit also asserted that the union and its top officers held total control in doling out $2 million a year in off-duty security work. The union used the off-duty details as patronage, rewarding loyalists and intimidating those who wavered, Stone alleged.
Though the case is still pending, an investigation by the city's human relations department determined in 1998 that the off-duty details, which could boost an officer's pay by almost $30,000 a year, had been doled out with unbridled cronyism. The city revised the system somewhat in the fall of 1999, but it left in place the practice of having assignments made by off-duty coordinators, most of whom are PBA members.
Judging by depositions taken in the picnic probe, Marano remains powerful, and he doesn't hesitate to use his union clout and influence over off-duty details to get his way.
Officer Debra Levy told investigators that it was a "scary thing" to talk to them because what she says could affect how she'd be treated in the department. Asked who might retaliate against her, she replied, "I can't specifically say it would be Lt. Marano, you know, again because I'm not privy to him actually saying those things, but the feeling of the department is that he controls a lot of stuff and that if you cross him, you're screwed."
Detective Peter Salvo told investigators that disagreeing with Marano meant the lieutenant would "always take action or do something to try to get you to be on his side or to eliminate you from being a threat against his opinion." After Salvo backed a candidate for a union position that differed from Marano's choice, Marano told the detective, "I will not be your friend. I will never talk to you," according to Salvo.
It was Marano's demand for unwavering loyalty that figured in his attack on the black officers. "He thought it was a union against his union, or an opinion against his opinion," Salvo said, "and he was [forcefully] going after it."
Marano still doesn't hesitate to lean on subordinates if he wants something. Forrest Jeffries, a sergeant assigned to the internal affairs division, testified that Marano continually pestered him about an investigation he was conducting. The department had received an anonymous letter concerning Marano's conduct. Jeffries had looked into the complaint -- he didn't give investigators any specifics -- and forwarded his findings to the State Attorney's Office. Marano kept asking Jeffries when he'd know the outcome of the case.
"He informed me that he believed I enjoyed working in internal affairs too much, that I was having too much of a good time and for me to remember that I'm only gonna be up there a short time and that I'll be back down working with the rest of the officers," Jeffries said. On another occasion, according to Jeffries, Marano said, "Remember, this is only a short little ditty that you're gonna be in. You'll not always be in internal affairs."
Jeffries had had enough, however, after the lieutenant happened upon him at a Dixie Highway sub shop. "He became very upset and said that one of these days that I'm gonna need something from him and he's not going to do anything or provide any help." Marano added: "For me to get this information, am I going to have to threaten you?" Jeffries complained to his commanding officer, who told Marano to desist. Marano told investigators that he and Jeffries were "joking" in the sub shop. Jeffries says Marano left him alone after that.
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Some say that the police lieutenant's cozy relationship with Chief Scarberry helps Marano remain in control.
"It's clearly his department," Singhal says of Marano, "and I think the chief over there is his puppet."
Salvo told investigators: "People don't want to do nothing because they think he's got the chief's blessing," adding that many in the department ask, "When is Lt. Marano gonna let the chief run the department?"
Officer Shipley agreed. "I believe strongly that the position that Lt. Marano holds with the union is a conflict of interest, for one thing. He's a lieutenant -- I believe that's a management position in this department. I've been told that it's not, but I believe if you're in that position, you're management, and he holds a high position in the union. If you have any type of grievances or problems, who you gonna go and talk to?"