Whenever a deputy goes down, we wonder how it could have been prevented. We want to learn from it, so that it doesn't happen again, so that the deputy's death wasn't in vain. In the case of Dep. Paul Rein, we can debate forever about whether, at 76, he was too old to be transporting hardened criminals. And the talk about changing transport policy is well and good, but the fact will always remain that had Rein not apparently followed his own kind instincts rather than follow department procedures, Michael Mazza never would have had the chance to kill.
This horrible event, however, does shed light on one surely wasteful and dangerous reality: BSO transports about 400 inmates from the Pompano jails to the downtown courthouse each day. The sheer number of transports notches up the odds that a tragedy would occur sooner or later. And the waste in manpower, vehicles, gasoline, etc. is troubling on its face.
The system is absurd. The bulk of Broward inmates are in Pompano, yet all the court facilities are in downtown. That doesn't stop the downtown greedheads from pushing the construction of a new $400 million court tower downtown, a move that would just perpetuate the waste and the danger. The county commission, which is too close to developers and lobbyists, is sold on the idea. I wrote about the propaganda campaign for the new courthouse two weeks ago. From the article:
The place for a new courthouse might not even be downtown. Gelin suggests that it may be a better idea to build a court complex in Pompano Beach, where many inmates are housed in jails. It would certainly be more efficient.
That would be JAABlog's Bill Gelin, who weighs in on the issue today on JAABlog. Here's his argument:
1. Eliminate, or seriously decrease, nearly all of the security and transport issues currently plauging BSO, in addition to saving the current enormous transportation expenditures.
2. Cheap land, which may already be owned by the County. Construction costs would also be faster and cheaper than building downtown, in addition to the millions saved on land costs.
3. Complex could include additional jail space, since Broward is unlikely to fix its ongoing jail overcrowding issues, thereby killing two birds with one stone.
4. Central location: near the Turnpike and 95, easily accessible by jurors and workers alike, unlike downtown.
5. No downtown parking problems and costs.
6. The low-income surrounding areas would benefit from new jobs, and development would occur to service the new facility (restaurants, offices, etc.).
7. New office space for the State Attorney, the Public Defender, the Clerk’s criminal divisions, Judges, and the new Conflict Office would free tons of space downtown for new courtrooms.
8. Safer, more efficient, and quicker administration of justice.
The downtown courthouse would still be active -- the criminal court duties would just be split up in a smarter, safer, cheaper, and more productive way. It's time to attack this issue with good sense rather than let the special interests do the talking. Too bad it may have taken a good man's death to truly bring the problem to light.