Undercurrents | New Times Broward-Palm Beach


If we were working for the Broward County Sheriff's Office and we were a black sergeant about to take the test for lieutenant, we would be studying like a compulsive gambler who just got his hands on a racing form.

Some lucky soul working for Sheriff Ken Jenne may not yet realize it, but his or her career is about to take off like a rocket. We'll wager that a person of color who scores well on the next test will quickly be promoted to chief of a district office because of political machinations beyond his or her knowledge or control.

In two recent public forums, a number of black activists voiced their opposition to a strong-mayor form of government and in particular their displeasure with the diminutive sheriff who is expected to undergo coronation if voters approve the strong-mayor system.

Many blacks feel that a strong mayor will further open the door for the malignancy of cronyism that is traditional in Broward politics and at the same time weaken the power of the hoped-for single-member districts.

Last week in Pompano Beach, black activists went a step further by pointing to a Jenne weak spot: He has no black person in a command position in the ten sheriff's office districts. That's because such a position requires the rank of lieutenant, and no black has attained that rank. A consummate politician who plans to court the substantial black vote would never leave himself open to such criticism before the big race.

Therefore we bet that the next black person to pass that lieutenant's test will suddenly vault over some other qualified candidates for the sake of political expediency. Congratulations, whoever you are.

A buddy of ours from Washington, D.C., got a rude welcome on a recent visit to the Venice of America. Quinn (he asked that we not use his full name in fear of reprisal from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department) was here to see the Orioles play some spring training games. He bought an extra $6 ticket for a Friday afternoon St. Louis Cardinals game featuring Big Mac in the hope that we could sneak out of work early and join him at the sold-out stadium. No such luck.

So when a fellow fan approached looking for a ticket, Quinn offered to sell him the extra for $10. Quinn obviously was not familiar with the iron fist of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department -- under which no fornicator, expired tag, homeless feeding program, or tourist trying to unload an extra ticket to a ball game goes unpunished.

Quicker than Quinn could say, "Beer man," he found himself on a four-hour visit to the city jail along with five other ticket scofflaws on a scalping charge. One of his cellmates was arrested for selling his $4.50, senior-citizen-discounted ticket to a non-senior citizen! Quinn wisely kept his distance from this criminal.

Last week, seemingly safe in D.C., Quinn learned a second South Florida lesson -- this one in bureaucratic incompetence. He arrived home on May 10 to find a notice from the Broward County Clerk of Courts informing him that his arraignment would be held at 8:15 a.m. on... May 10! A warrant has now been issued for his arrest.

The notice had been mailed on April 28, but with one small glitch: It was addressed to Washington, WA. We can't locate this place on a map, but perhaps Clerk of Courts Bob Lockwood could be sent there on an all-expenses-paid retirement package.

-- as told to Tom Walsh

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