Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Police Department Loses Another Case

The Miami Herald published a small article called North Bay Village, PBA Settle Dispute Over Documents.  The article fails the big journalistic question by not answering the question "What happened?"   Reading the article, you get a description of the outcome, that there was some kind of an obscure legal claim over some documents and it's now resolved, but not an answer to "What happened?"  

The village clerk who received the request is quoted saying "“At the time that the request was made, I was advised that  the case was still ongoing,”  The Herald and all of us need to ask the next question.  Who advised that the case was  still ongoing?   

The Village Commission needs ask "What happened?" as well. This is a story about someone in the village deliberately misrepresenting the status of an investigation in order to not release documents required under Florida law.  The someone is unidentified and the Commission has to know who did this.  

The Mayor is quoted as saying “My concern is the expense. A thousand dollars here, $100 here, $500 here, $2,000 here — it adds up.”

That's the thing  It adds up.  And not to $2,000 but a lot more, a whole  lot more.  So far the police department's shambolic handling of  one case has cost the Village nearly $500,000 in legal fees and two years of salaries and benefits to the officer who was found to have been incorrectly fired.   

The case that was just settled for a trivial $1,500 is part of a larger case against another police officer who is appealing his dismissal, a case that has so far wound up costing the village nearly $200,000 in legal fees and one that most people believe the village is bound to lose, which will cost us several hundred thousand dollars more in back pay, not to mention the specter of a civil trial.  

At the same time, there are ongoing investigations against currently employed police officers, one going on for at least two years with no resolution.  

It's important to look at what the courts and arbitrators have found so far, and it's simple.  They have found that the dismissals and disciplines were not sustainable because the evidence and statements provided were so contradictory and so changeable that they could not give credence to any of the PD's claims.  

Think about that.  Our PD which is charged with finding the facts in criminal cases could not be trusted to provide accurate information in the two major cases they have pursued.  

Maybe there's a good reason.  Maybe the courts and arbitrators are the sort of fantasists who live their lives by the "could have been" rules.  But much more likely is that our PD is in such an observable state of disarray. that they cannot be consistent and credible.  

That's what I think and just to be very clear, I don't think it's the cops on the street who've done this.  

The police chief is responsible, both as an individual and a department head. The commission has to hold him accountable for these failures to meet even basic standards.  These cases should never have been pursued.  Daniels was advised against these dismissals from the beginning and he is continuing to mismanage the department to the village's great detriment.  

Simple fact, $1,000,000 represents  30% of the PD's $3,358,650 budget.  Thirty percent of the budget has been spent on two mismanaged personnel actions.  

At the next commission meeting, Chief Daniels should account for his actions in this case.  I can think of no organization that would allow the loss of 30% of the budget to unsuccessful outcomes where the person in charge was not even questioned about it and the commission needs to do this and take appropriate action now.

Kevin Vericker
February 23, 2013

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