A Department Or a Demolition Derby? | New Times Broward-Palm Beach

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A Department Or a Demolition Derby?

Just as cats get nine lives, Hollywood Police officers get 9 wrecks. Or at least that appears the case with Officer Joel Francisco, who averaged almost one per year over an 11-year career, according to a review of his personnel file by the Sun-Sentinel.

Francisco and his cohorts are going to get the book thrown at them, and that's a shame. Because this is so much bigger than them. The primary difference between these officers and a whole host of other Hollywood cops is that their ethical transgressions cannot be finessed. The video evidence against them is too damning.

Francisco and the other officers involved are victims of a culture of invincibility. And whatever anger there is for what happened belongs to the parties who created that culture.

The police union, for starters, which time and again has chosen to protect one of its members rather than a code of honorable police conduct.

The police brass, which has neglected to install a tough Internal Affairs division and which for a generation has overlooked patterns of incompetence and misconduct by officers that were far more obvious than Francisco's.

And why not? The Hollywood City Commission was more worried about getting the endorsement of police officers than in bringing real reform to a department that was obviously corrupt.

Finally, the media. Before this case, there were dozens more in which Hollywood cops were accused of similar ethical breaches, only the evidence was subtler. Still those cases were part of a big picture that was unmistakable. If the same newspapers and television stations now blanketing the Hollywood PD had taken an interest in just a few of the previous misconduct cases reported by the tiny staff of this paper over the last several years, then all the parties above would have been held accountable long ago.

So Francisco and company will be scapegoats dealt a tough hand of justice, while the rest will learn another lesson: If there's not egregious, blatant evidence of corruption, then it's not worth reporting about, it's not an occasion for institutional reform, and it's not worth serious punishment.

And though there may be no hope for those folks, I do hope that this most recent case empowers the good cops to take leadership positions in Hollywood PD. That is, the ones who didn't take the bait, who had a moral compass and warned their colleagues about sloppy police work but were ignored, even ostracized. Now they have a cause for righteous indignation: When they've been doing their jobs with honor, why should they be suspected as dirty cops by their own citizens? Those cops exist, even at Hollywood PD -- I've talked to them. They deserve better than this.