2015 was a rough year for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. Flakka incidents soared in Broward County, making this year especially difficult. The department was met with heavy criticism after a racist video created by four officers surfaced online. It didn't help that the year before officers arrested 90-year-old activist Arnold Abbott for sharing food with the homeless in downtown to a worldwide outcry and ridicule.
But after the racist video surfaced online that was linked to the officers, one resigned and three others were fired. And
These are all great accomplishments — and the New Year is a great time to reflect. New Times reached out to the Fort Lauderdale Police Department for comment and insight, but they were unable to respond immediately. We’ll update this post if we hear back.
These are four suggested New Year’s resolutions for the Fort Lauderdale Police Department in 2016:
4. Ticket people of color at an equal ratio
When New Times investigated in October 2013, we found that 86 percent of the tickets handed out by police over the three years prior had been given to African-Americans. We also found that the ordinance was rarely enforced in predominantly white neighborhoods. At the time, Fort Lauderdale Police Chief Franklin Adderley defended the practice, citing the ordinance as a useful way to approach bike-bound drug dealers, prostitutes, and robbers. But in January, New Times obtained new data from the Public Defender's Office, showing that, although there's been a dramatic drop in the number of total citations handed out, the ratios show that black people still receive the highest percentage of tickets — an even higher percentage than at the time of our last report: a whopping 93 percent.
In 2016, we hope the new data will reflect an equal ratio.
3. Stop arresting homeless people for being homeless
In Fort Lauderdale, ordinances dictate that all Fort Lauderdale feeding sites require a permit, permission from property owners, and certain amenities like toilets and sinks. Many activists feel that these laws unfairly target homeless people. Then, in February, Fort Lauderdale Police Officer Victor Ramirez slapped a homeless man who wanted to use a public restroom:
Laclair says in the video that he wanted to go use the restroom, but Ramirez insisted he leave the Broward Central Terminal immediately. After Ramirez grabs his arm, Laclair shakes him off — and then Ramirez shoves Laclair to the ground.
While on the ground, Laclair states his desire to use the restroom — but Ramirez wasn't having it.
"You're not going to go pee," he says. "You're not supposed to pee here."
Moments later, after a brief exchange, Ramirez reaches back and delivers a cold, hard smack across Laclair's face. The Fort Lauderdale peace officer then arrests the homeless man for trespassing and takes him to jail.
In 2016, we hope Fort Lauderdale Police officers resolve to be more understanding of homeless people.
2. Lower the $100 million budget
The Fort Lauderdale Police department is composed of 515 sworn police officers and 190 civilian employees. It has an annual budget of $100 million. This week, New Times reported that a study found, in terms of return on investment, Fort Lauderdale Police are the third-worst in the nation:
One of the experts WalletHub consulted on the study, Aaron Chalfin, who directs research at the University of Chicago’s “Crime Lab New York,” agreed and told WalletHub that “every city faces different challenges, and it’s difficult to infer from crime statistics which departments are doing better than others.” Extra money, he said, is often better spent on "smart policing" programs, like crime-prediction software or de-escalation training for cops, rather than new equipment, in some circumstances.
Fort Lauderdale Police Public Information Officer Keven Dupree said Wednesday he was unable to comment on the study without first consulting other members of the department.
In 2016, we hope the Fort Lauderdale Police Department will resolve to increase its return on investment.
1. Fire Officer Jeffrey Feldewert
In June, Officer Jeffrey Feldewert was let go after he took to his personal Facebook page and wrote "typical hoodrat behavior" as a caption for a photo of a black man being arrested. The photo Feldewert posted was apparently a meme that read: "Black People. Because without them the evening news wouldn't be as much fun to watch."
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Then, in August, Feldewert appealed the decision and was reinstated as a police officer and given back his badge. According to the Sun Sentinel, Fort Lauderdale City Manager Lee Feldman said in an email that Feldewert's actions did not merit his getting fired:
"While the city certainly does not condone Officer Feldewert's actions, nor are they in any way representative of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, the actual matter, evaluated with the officer's record, did not warrant termination," Feldman's email reads.
Earlier this year, officers were found to have sent text messages about "killing n***ers" and were named in a video of a mock movie trailer depicting Barack Obama as a thuggish villain. One resigned and the other three were fired in March.
In 2016, we hope that Officer Jeffrey Feldewert is no longer on the police department's payroll.