Commend or complain about a police officer in Palm Beach County

Has a police officer or deputy treated you particularly well or poorly?

Police chiefs at Saturday morning’s Community Safety Roundtable said they want to hear about it.

So we’ve put together some ways to do that at the agencies represented on the panel, which heard from residents about police concerns.

Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office

File complaints at PBSO: http://bit.ly/1K187UBpb sheriff badge

Internal Affairs  561-688-3035

West Palm Beach Police

Criminal Justice Advisory Board, meets at 8:30 a.m., second Tuesday of the month open to the public

Commend or complain about an officer: http://bit.ly/1SIIlIn

Boynton Beach Police

Email addresses and phone numbers for Chief Jeffrey Katz and other brass, submit feedback, tips, etc: http://bit.ly/1Bx9gvW

North Palm Beach Police

From web site http://bit.ly/1KuY4Ff on filing a complaint: The department will investigate any complaint made by a citizen. Complaints may be received in person, via written correspondence, telephone calls, or anonymously. Please call 561-848-2525 and ask to speak with the supervisor on duty.

Riviera Beach Police

Internal Affairs: Step-by-step ways to file a complaint http://bit.ly/1EHX4c3

Fathers and sons attending the Community Safety Roundtable

More than 100 people are attending the Community Safety Roundtable that started at 10 a.m. in the Palm Beach County Governmental Center.

Samuel Pierre and 4-year-old son Sammy
Samuel Pierre and 4-year-old son Sammy

Among those in the crowd are fathers and sons, including Samuel Pierre of Palm Springs. He brought his 4-year-old son Sammy. Both were dressed in suits and sat in the second row.

“I would like for him to get along with police officers and hear from them so when he gets bigger he knows how to react and how to behave with officers,’’ Pierre said.

Pierre broke the ice by asking Palm Beach School District Police Capt. Rick Morris to take a smartphone photo of the father and son.

“That’s admirable that he’s doing that with his son. That’s amazing,’’ Morris said of Pierre.

 

Justice Department turns down request to investigate PBSO

The U.S. Department of Justice will not be investigating allegations of excessive force by PBSO against the Hispanic community.

In a letter dated last week, a chief within DOJ’s Civil Rights Division wrote that the decision was made after PBSO told them about its “efforts to work with the Latino community.”

Attorney Jack Scarola, on behalf of the Guatemalan Maya Center in Lake Worth, had asked for DOJ to investigate PBSO after Augusto Garcia was knocked to the ground and handcuffed by a deputy after calling police for help. He had to be taken to a hospital and is now suing the department.

“Based on a review of your letter and the PBSO response, the Civil Rights Division has determined not to open an investigation,” Deeana Jang, chief of the Civil Rights Division’s Federal Coordination and Compliance Section, wrote.

Scarola could not immediately be reached for comment.

The letter did not address a current FBI investigation into a use of force case against by a PBSO deputy that was announced by Sheriff Ric Bradshaw earlier this month. The FBI has not commented on the investigation.

What would you ask police?

Have a question you’d like local law-enforcement leaders to answer Saturday at the Community Safety Roundtable?

Submit them to us in the comments section of this blog by Friday morning and we will share them with Riviera Beach attorney Edwin Ferguson.

Edwin Ferguson
Edwin Ferguson

Ferguson is moderating a panel discussion with local police chiefs and a Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office official from 10 a.m. to noon. He plans to ask questions of his own along with questions from the audience.

He agreed to try to ask a few questions submitted to this blog from readers who might not be able to attend Saturday’s meeting.

The roundtable is being hosted by Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor in response to a sweeping investigation by The Palm Beach Post and WPTV NewsChannel 5 of use-of-force patterns by the sheriff’s office.

Among the findings: The Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office has cleared 97 percent of fatal police shootings since 2000. Evidence is ignored in the investigations. One-quarter of the people shot were unarmed.  To read more, go to mypalmbeachpost.com/policeshootings.

The roundtable will be held on the sixth floor of the county Government Center at 301 N. Olive Ave. in downtown West Palm Beach.

The morning panel discussion will include the police chiefs of West Palm Beach, Riviera Beach and North Palm Beach and PBSO Chief Deputy Michael Gauger.

After the panel discussion, there will be three afternoon workshops: How to respond if you are stopped by Law Enforcement”; self-marshaling training by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Community Relations Service staff; the power of peaceful protests by Amnesty International.

Coming soon to PBIA: Dedicated Tri-Rail shuttle to WPB train station

Tri-Rail passengers will soon have a dedicated shuttle bus linking Palm Beach International Airport and the train station in downtown West Palm Beach.

About $200,000 for the shuttle was included in a $105 million operating budget approved Friday by the South Florida Regional Transit Authority’s governing board, which oversees Tri Rail.

Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams steps off a Tri-Rail train
Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams steps off a Tri-Rail train

Plans call for the shuttle to start operating by the end of the summer to coincide with the start of the tourist season.

“It’s something I’ve been pushing for,’’ said Palm Beach County Commissioner Steven Abrams, a Tri-Rail proponent and member of the SFRTA board.

“We are the only (South Florida) airport that doesn’t have a direct connection from the station to the airport and it’s sorely needed. People ask me all the time, ‘Isn’t there a more efficient way to get to the airport (from Tri-Rail)?’’

Right now, Tri-Rail passengers can catch the Palm Tran route 44 and 42 buses to PBIA from the West Palm Beach Intermodel Center. But those routes have stops in between the airport and train station.

092512+met+city+rail+2“That’s not as reliable as having a dedicated shuttle,’’ Abrams said. “This is going to make it much more convenient for people to use Tri-Rail to get to the airport.’’

Miami International Airport links to a Tri-Rail station via the MIA Mover, an elevated train. Fort Lauderdale International Airport has a dedicated Tri-Rail shuttle.

Jerry Allen, PBIA’s deputy director, said there has been talk about a long-range plan for a new Tri-Rail station at Palm Beach County’s Airport Centre just north of Southern Boulevard.

But that would still require bus shuttles to take passengers on the final half-mile journey to the terminal.

For now, he said, the dedicated Tri-Rail shuttle from the Intermodel Center will offer passengers another option.

“It certainly sounds like appositive thing that we will let our passengers know about,’’ Allen  said.

Did Boynton police chief cancel because he didn’t like a headline?

Did Boynton Beach police chief Jeffrey Katz cancel plans to attend a Community Safety Roundtable because he didn’t like a headline?

Boynton Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Katz
Boynton Beach Police Chief Jeffrey Katz

Palm Beach County Commissioner Priscilla Taylor said Katz last month intially agreed to participate in the May 30 symposium, which will be attended by at least three other local police chiefs and the chief deputy of the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office.

But on April 29, Katz sent an email to Taylor seeking “a draft agenda so I can garner a better understanding of the nature of the topics to be discussed.

“Of specific concern is that fact that I – and I assume other law enforcement executives – are being invited to a ‘Community Safety Roundtable’. However, the Palm Beach Post is referring to it (as) a ‘Police Shootings Symposium,’’’ he said, referring to a Post story on April 28.

“I am an enthusiastic proponent of proactive community engagement. However, I believe it is important to identify the nature of the endeavor before consenting to participate.’’

Boynton Beach police spokeswoman Stephanie Slater last week said Katz would not attend but she would not offer an explanation. Katz did not respond to an email from The Post.

Taylor said she was disappointed that Katz backed out. She said she can only assume, based on his email to her, that the Post’s use of the word “shooting” in the headline might be his reason for not participating.

Katz “did call initially and he sounded like he was coming. As a matter of fact, he said he was coming. But for whatever reason, he decided not to,’’ Taylor said.

“It’s unfortunate that people would let something like that get in the way of really having a conversation with the community, but we can’t force their hands.’’

Taylor announced she would organize the roundtable last month after reading about disturbing use-of-force patterns by PBSO deputies in an investigation by The Palm Beach Post and WPTV NewsChannel 5.

The daylong symposium is not a forum for citizens to complain about local police, Taylor said.

“We want to set the stage that this is not a confrontational meeting, so people will know we are not going in there to beat up on anybody,’’ said Taylor, a candidate for Congress.

 

Palm Beach County proves the value of female leadership, but Austin needed lessons

LAS VEGAS, NV - MAY 05:  Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton smiles as she speaks at Rancho High School on May 5, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Clinton said that any immigration reform would need to include a path to "full and equal citizenship."  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV – MAY 05: Democratic presidential candidate and former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton smiles as she speaks at Rancho High School on May 5, 2015 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Clinton said that any immigration reform would need to include a path to “full and equal citizenship.” (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

A former local city manager traveled to Austin, Texas recently to help their city staff learn the finer points of working with women as Austin gets acquainted with its first female majority city council.

How to work with women. Yes, that’s right.

Palm Beach County government and staff already does it well, but let’s look at what happened in Austin first.

Jonathan K. Allen, who recently served as city manager in Lauderdale Lakes under an all-female commission, went to Austin in March to share his experiences working with female elected officials as Austin’s city employees make the transition.

The long-and-short of his guidance (which is ironic because as a woman, the concept of shortened summaries flows contrary to Allen’s first piece of advice):

  1. Women like to talk a lot and ask a lot of questions, so men must be patient with them.
  2. Women are not interested in numbers and math, so it will be best to shy away from financial analysis when making policy decisions.
  3. Thanks to Hillary Clinton (thank goodness women finally have a leadership role model!), more women will run for office and be in leadership positions.

That last point must be disheartening for men since the first two points make working with women seem very burdensome.

Allen said he learned first-hand how to communicate with women from his 11-year-old daughter, who asked him a flurry of questions on their way to a volleyball practice one day.

“In a matter of 15 seconds, I got 10 questions that I had to patiently respond to,” Allen said, according to the Austin American-Statesmen. So he had to be patient with her.

Verdenia C. Baker, left, was selected as the new Palm Beach County Administrator to succeed Robert Weisman, right, during proceedings of the Palm Beach County Commission in West Palm Beach on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)
Verdenia C. Baker, left, was selected as the new Palm Beach County Administrator to succeed Robert Weisman, right, during proceedings of the Palm Beach County Commission in West Palm Beach on Tuesday, May 12, 2015. (Thomas Cordy / The Palm Beach Post)

Allen said he used the same approach with the women he worked for in Lauderdale Lakes, as they were less likely to read the agenda items and simply ask him to explain everything to them.

The same went for discussing the financial items with his female commissioners, whom Allen said didn’t “want to hear about the financial argument, I want to hear about how this impacts the whole community,” according to the Statesman. So in order to get items to pass, he had to learn to talk around the numbers.

“If you use or attempt to use the same communication or management techniques that you used or attempted to use in a predominantly male-dominated environment, you will be making a serious error in your professional development, because they don’t process things the same way,” Allen said in the session.

By comparison, a key component in my role as a Digital Editor for The Post is analyzing statistical data on the work we do. And again, I’m a woman.

Despite Allen’s expertise in working for female leaders, he was terminated from his role as Lauderdale Lakes city manager in April after a 3-2 vote, when Vice Mayor Beverly Williams said it was time to move on, saying city leadership and Allen had different visions for the future.

“We’re inundated with gas stations,” Williams told the Sun Sentinel. “I don’t have a vision for that.”

And Williams wasn’t as disinterested in figures as Allen would’ve had his audience believe.

“I read everything. I am concerned about our financial statements. I do ask a lot of questions and expect a lot of answers,” Williams told the Associated Press.

Lauderdale Lakes’ commission and Allen eventually agreed on calling the termination a mutual separation of employment, with Allen receiving a severance package of $182,568 that included severance pay, unused paid time off, Social Security and health insurance, according to the Sun Sentinel.

Thanks to the Sun Sentinel for doing the math for me because as a woman, I may not have been able to figure that out or even wanted to. It was probably a man.

But staffers attending the Austin training session didn’t just hear from Allen. They also heard from another local: Dr. Miya Burt-Stewart is a Hollywood-based management consultant who discussed the differences between men and women by citing examples from the book Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus.

Yes, that actually happened.

According to the Statesmen, Burk-Stewart highlighted the many differences between men and women. Echoing Allen, she said men think women ask too many questions and communicate less than women.

Austin City Manager Marc Ott has apologized for the training session and had the video removed from the city’s website. Austin’s new councilwomen, however, are asking why such a training was even done.

“All of these women can do math. All of these women understand how to make financial decisions,” Councilwoman Ellen Troxclair told the Associated Press.

Palm Beach County staffers clearly do not need similar training. Verdenia Baker was chosen this week as the new County Administrator following a nationwide search, reporting to a female-majority county commission. And no additional training was needed.

“Loxahatchee Lager”? Beer and nature pair up in new project

Northern Palm Beach County’s wild scenery is the inspiration behind a project by a local craft brewer to blend beer and nature.

Twisted Trunk Brewing Company in Palm Beach Gardens this summer plans to roll out a custom beer in honor of natural areas such as the Loxahatchee Slough, Pine Glades and Cypress Creek.

A house-brewed craft beer at the Tequesta Brewing Co. in Tequesta. (Photo contributed by Tequesta Brewing Co.)
A house-brewed craft beer at the Tequesta Brewing Co. in Tequesta. (Photo contributed by Tequesta Brewing Co.)

“We’re leaning toward calling it ‘Loxahatchee Lager,’’’ said Fran Andrewlevich, brewmaster at Twisted Trunk, a subsidiary of Tequesta Brewing Co.

The plan is to donate a share of the proceeds from the sale of the beer to Palm Beach County’s department of Environmental Resources Management, which would use the money to help maintain the county’s natural areas.

“A lot of our customers hike and kayak in the natural areas. We just want to raise some awareness and make great beer,’’ Andrewlevich said.

One of those customers is Benji Studt, an environmental analyst with ERM who leads periodic photography hikes through the natural areas.

Benji Studt (red shirt) with students on a photo tour of Pine Glades Natural Area
Benji Studt (red shirt) with students on a photo tour of Pine Glades Natural Area

Andrewlevich said he and his partners got inspired to brew the special lager after listening to Studt sit at the bar describing the scenery.

“We plan on doing a beer that infuses some of the natural ingredients that are out there,’’ Andrewlevich said.

“Normally we do fruits and spices. Out there, there’s hibiscus, mulberry, natural blueberries. We’d like to tie those into the beer.’’yellowwildflower

A roll-out event, including a presentation by ERM, will be held sometime in July at Twisted Trunk.

“We’re thrilled they’re choosing to support local land conservation and our natural areas program,’’ Studt said.

“There are so many really great recreational opportunities out in the natural areas that are free to visitors.

“Right now they’re very underutilized. Getting word out to the public about these eco-treasures in our back yards is really what we’re excited about.’’

 

No big prison reform, but now they can track the chemical spray

Apparently, Florida has all along needed a law- or Rick Scott’s blessing – to figure out just how much CS gas (aka pepper spray)  state prisons have, where they put it and how they can get rid of it.Scott+2015

Finding a better way to trash empty gas canisters is not what the architects of a sweeping Senate prison reform bill had in mind this past session.

That bill was gutted by the House, though, just before it closed down for business three days ahead of schedule.

All along, lawmakers behind the Senate bill said the House’s suggested reforms weren’t reforms at all, but were window dressing: Changes that no one needed a law to implement.

Like figuring out how to inventory pepper spray.

This afternoon, Gov. Scott signed  Executive Order 15-102, which the governor’s office said makes “significant reforms in Florida’s prison system to improve safety, transparency and accountability.” Among the reforms:

  • Establishment of a usage and inventory policy to track, by institution, the use of chemical agents and disposal of expired, used, or damaged canisters of chemical agents.

The order also includes some significant items, such as unannounced inspections and  statistical analysis examining use of force by guards.

Not included, though, was the central Senate reform, an independent oversight commission. Nor were other reforms the Senate considered necessary in the wake of a series of stories by The Post, the Miami Herald and others exposing prison inmate deaths, abuse and unchecked brutality.

Just months ago, FSU’s Project on Accountable Justice concluded the state prison agency was so flawed that it recommended basically rebuilding it from the ground up.

One of the cases cited by the group:  The 2010 death of  Randall Jordan-Aparo.

He was gassed to death by guards.

.

 

 

Another day, another Florida prison guard headed to jail

Columbia CI
Columbia CI

Another day, another prison guard bust.

Make that two guards.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) reports that Columbia Correctional prison Sgt. Christopher Michael Jernigan and guard Donald Dwight Sims, Jr. have been charged with aggravated battery on an inmate and, in Jernigan’s case, tampering with evidence.

According to the FDLE, this is how it played out:

The Columbia Correctional Institution guards were taking Shurick Lewis, 41, to solitary confinement this past February when they ordered other inmates to leave the area. Lewis was then taken to a place without video surveillance and assaulted.

According to FDLE, after the beating, Jernigan told other inmates to clean up the blood, put a new mattress on the bunk and throw away bloody clothes.

Lewis, bleeding from his nose and mouth and with a swollen eye, was seen by a prison nurse. It’s not known what care he got, but the nurse sent him back to his cell – where he lost consciousness.

Several hours later, he was found by officers on the next shift and taken to Shands Hospital, where he was treated for a broken nose and several facial fractures.

The two guards offered vastly different stories: Sims said Lewis fell off his bunk. Jernigan said he used force after the inmate lunged at him.

Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones
Florida Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones

Jernigan turned himself in to the Columbia County Jail yesterday. Sims was arrested Monday night.

All this comes within weeks of the arrest of two prison guards and one ex-guard — all reputed members of the Ku Klux Klan — for conspiring to kill a former inmate.

That doesn’t exactly qualify as the start of a clean sweep, but it does give some credence to  Department of Corrections Secretary Julie Jones’s written comments about Jernigan and Sims: “The Florida Department of Corrections has absolutely no tolerance for the behavior and actions taken by these individuals.”