Hollywood Police Chief Frank Fernandez

 

You’ve probably never heard of Lackie, Dammier & MCGill, a now-defunct Orange County California law firm. If you have, it’s probably from a scandal over police unions. City officials from several cities held a press conference and reported how their cities’ police unions intimidated council members, had them followed, bugged, and even tried to frame one official for drunk driving, all to secure more generous compensation packages.

During the investigation, Lackie, Dammier & McGill (LD&M), which was made up of former police officers, briefly attracted some attention when it’s “bargaining manual” for police unions was made public. It was such an outrageous document, filled with dirty tricks, that Police Associations quickly distanced themselves from the law firm and it shut down. 

Closer to home, it looks like Broward Police Benevolent Association President Jeff Marano was a keen student of Lackie, Dammier & McGill, because he’s following the dirty tricks list like his own personal check list, particularly in his vendetta against Hollywood Police Chief Frank Fernandez.

A few examples (LD&M in bold):

The public could care less about your pay … All they want to know is “what is in it for them.” Any public positions or statements by the association should always keep that focus. The message should always be public safety first. You do not want wage increases for yourselves, but simply to attract better qualified candidates and to keep more experienced officers from leaving.

Remember when Marano claimed “20” police officers were ready to quit because Hollywood “wasn’t competitive with any other agency”? It didn’t happen.

The irony is that it’s Marano himself who encourages officers to leave Hollywood:

“Currently there are 15 openings at BSO. We encourage the younger Hollywood PD members to apply as the mayor’s message continues to paint a bleak future for your career with the City. We have a BSO Deputy here at the PBA Office who can help you with your application and expedite the process.”

Billboards – Nothing seems to get more attention than a billboard entering the city limits which reads that crime is up and the City could care less about your safety.

Marano actually topped this one! Not only did his PBA put up a billboard on Pembroke Road claiming Hollywood had a high crime rate, he also took it to the next level and hired an airplane to fly a banner saying the same thing during the St. Patrick’s Parade in 2014, naming Chief Fernandez as responsible. Politifact, a non-profit fact-checking organization, has called the claim “cherry picking”, and pointed out that crime dropped in Hollywood 13% between 2012 and 2013.

Work Slowdown – This involves informing your members to comply closely with Department policy and obey all speed limits. It also involves having members do thorough investigations, such as canvassing the entire neighborhood when taking a 459 report and asking for a back-up unit on most calls. Of course, exercising officer discretion in not issuing citations and making arrests is also encouraged.

Marano hasn’t called for a slowdown, exactly, but he made sure officers got the message about not working too hard either. From the Broward Police Benevolent Association Blog:

“Keep on being proactive–and going above and beyond–to make FF look good[…]Keep on working hard in the neighborhoods who voted against you September 2011. Keep on believing the mayor who compliments you in person, who applauds you and your chosen profession in speeches, then turns around and slams pension costs in the quarterly “New Horizon” rag paper to the entire City. He has obviously set the tone for his re-election.”

Public Ridicule – Blunders by the City Manager, Mayor, or City Council members or wasteful spending should be highlighted and pointed out to the public at every opportunity.

Recently, Chief Fernandez was involved in a minor incident – it’s too minor to even call it an “accident” – during training, when another officer hit his motorcycle. It resulted in less than $20 in damage to an amber light lens on the motorcycle and was fixed with existing spare parts. Nevertheless, Marano sent out a press release lambasting the chief, and sent a letter asking the mayor to investigate. The city of Hollywood has determined there was no wrongdoing.

On the PBA Blog, Marano has criticized even Fernandez’s holiday party, (“You think a glutton who knocks down $830 a day… could spring for something better than a parking lot cookout. He is a classless act.“)

Focus on an Individual – Avoid spreading your energy. Focus on a city manager, councilperson, mayor or police chief and keep the pressure up until that person assures you his loyalty and then move on to the next victim.

After the billboard and the airplane banner, it’s obvious Marano has it in for Chief Fernandez. Almost all his ire is focused on him, going on record about Fernandez’s “poor leadership”, and “Nobody likes him”. Last year he even sent out a press release and a letter to the city manager claiming the chief offended the force by sending out a “Happy Father’s Day Email”. Nothing is not worth criticizing.

Things haven’t quite reached New York City levels of antagonism, but it’s awfully close.

The truth is that Marano’s real enemy is not the Chief, or the city at all. His enemy is reform. One of Fernandez’s first acts was to commission an audit of the police department. It found Internal Affairs files had been purged without investigation, almost a hundred rape kits left unprocessed for years. Police culture had allowed these things to go on, and Marano hates Fernandez for standing by the people of Hollywood, not the police culture he was hired to change.

Its likely the situation between the civilian leadership in Hollywood and it’s police force will be rocky for quite some time.

In December, it was revealed that the police pension fund is almost 60% unfunded. The next few years will determine who is going to pay for the shortfall – Hollywood taxpayers or the Police officers themselves. Marano, no doubt, will only be pleased if it comes out of taxpayer pockets. Politicians, who have to respond to their constituents, will be unlikely to acquiesce.


 David Volz contributed to this op-ed.