Broward News

Cops and Community: Dysfunction Junction

Omar Vega/Sun-Sentinel

Last night's town meeting with Fort Lauderdale police -- meant to quell tensions in the predominantly black northwest section of the city after a questionable shooting -- was by all accounts a near-disaster. Broward Times columnist Elgin Jones sent the Pulp a raw description of the meeting that really takes you there:

Bob I was at last night's meeting and it was tense, dangerous and irresponsible. I saw dozens of cops in uniform and plain clothes who were clearly nervous, some kept their hands on their guns. The small room was packed with hundreds of people, many of whom were rowdy. Emotions were elevated and young people and old were screaming while other actually taunted police down in the lobby.

I could not help but think what would happen if there was a fire or if a fight broke out. A meeting was necessary, but the venue and having the police participate was a mistake. It should have been held at a church or other neutral location with no Ft Lauderdale Police, who anyone know would not answer questions about an open investigation.

There were no chairs, no microphone and absolutely no order to the meeting. Upset and emotional, the sardine-packed room was hot and anyone and everyone took their turns yelling out questions, while officials and leaders yelled back. This was all interrupted by frequent screams of profanity. It was a mess! Got so potentially dangerous until I finally followed other people who hightailed it out of there, before the crowd dispersed.

This was a mistake, but thankfully it didn't turn into a riot. Nervous police from the agency that had just killed a man packed into a hot city office with the members of the community from which the dead resided was a master brew for disaster. What a shame, but thank God nothing happened.

So it was the usual: Police standing around angry residents with no intention of engaging them in any type of dialogue. Here's how Brian Haas and Akilah Johnson described it in the Sun-Sentinel this morning:

Those who attended the meeting were met with chaos. Not enough chairs to sit. No microphone to hear. No organized way to tell their stories. Just another example, they said, of the daily discrimination they face at the hands of the police department.

"It makes us feel what we are already feeling -- injustice, injustice in the black community," said Sabrina Whitehead, 29, who grew up with [shooting victim] Eddines.

... About 300 citizens tossed out questions faster than police could answer them: Why? What's the procedure for use of deadly force? When were paramedics called? Few seemed pleased with the responses they received. Since the shooting is still being investigated, officials said few details could be released.

The Miami Herald's Wanda J. Demarzo and Darran Simon delved into some of the more general tensions:

Residents said they were concerned about how officers treated them in the community and are afraid to file complaints because they fear retaliation.

''It's not just [Officer] Todd Hill, it's all of them,'' said Sharanda Morgan, 37, who lives nearby. ''That's why we don't file that complaint. They will come back and harass us.''

A few residents asked why police cars didn't have cameras to record the shooting and when the investigation would be done.

''Those cameras are going to tell the truth,'' said Sylvester King of Fort Lauderdale.

Roberts, one of those who called meeting, said close to $2 million is set aside for cameras in all patrol cars. They should be installed by spring or summer of 2007, he said.

After the jump: A Detective Finds His Kassandra; and Slots Create Slut!

-- Palm Beach Post crime writer Rochelle E.B. Gilken writes this morning of Palm Beach County Sheriff's Det. Joseph Archambault's misguided attempt to bed a potential witness in the I-95 quadruple killing of a family.

Archambault was charged yesterday unlawfully sharing police information with the woman, 36-year-old Kassandra Lower. Key passage:

Archambault told investigators that he hoped to have sex with the woman, but she seemed strange. He said they talked about real estate and drank coffee, then she left.

She said he offered her what she thought was cocaine: a white powder cut into lines on a white plate on the coffee table in his living room. She said she declined.

Subsequent tests of Archambault's plates tested negative for narcotics.

Gee, you think he might have washed the plate? But seriously, don't you just hate those awkward moments when you're sitting with a murder witness and she won't do the blow you've procured for her (hey, why let good evidence go to waste?) or even have sex with you? Thank God for the ceaseless wonders of Florida real estate.


The Sentinel's Jon Burstein has an exclusive story this morning on the inaugural prostitution bust in the slots room at Gulfstream Park. Writes Burstein:

"Sheena Marie Kline, 21, approached an undercover Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent in the room's bar area and offered to have sex with him for $250, according to police reports. Kline, of Linden, Va., faces a misdemeanor count of offering to secure a lewd act and a felony count of illegally possessing a prescription painkiller."

Kline, pictured above, looks absolutely shattered by the arrest. But let's be thankful the streets -- and slots rooms -- are finally safe.

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Journalist Bob Norman has been raking the muck of South Florida for the past 25 years. His work has led to criminal cases against corrupt politicians, the ouster of bad judges from the bench, and has garnered dozens of state, regional, and national awards.
Contact: Bob Norman