Commentary

Police in Florida: A few are not exactly ‘dedicated and open-minded’ public servants

‘That’s all the bullets we had or we would have shot him more’

October 15, 2021 7:00 am

Tallahassee Police Department. Talgov.com

Florida Man is bad enough; now we have Florida Cop, an embarrassment to himself and the rest of us.

When Mayor Francis Suarez hired former Houston police chief Art Acevedo to run Miami’s P.D., he proclaimed it was “like getting the Tom Brady or the Michael Jordan of police chiefs.”

Except it was more like getting the Johnny Manziel police chiefs.

Acevedo managed to piss off half the 305 during the six months he’s been on the job. He had his picture taken with a local Proud Boys leader, claiming he had no idea who the guy was.

One might think it was part of his job to know which South Florida fascist was which.

He fired a lot of cops, too, and made himself even more unpopular with the city commission — three out of five of whom are Cuban American — likening them to communists and calling them the “Cuban Mafia.”

Acevedo was himself born in Havana.

Not that Acevedo was necessarily wrong in this instance; indeed, many give him credit for fighting corruption.

During a commission meeting to set in motion firing Acevedo, one commissioner (known as “Loco Joe” Corollo) ranted about the chief, playing a video from when Acevedo still worked in Texas. He was dressed as an Elvis, complete with tight (very tight) trousers which left little to the imagination.

Another video showed him playfully slapping a woman on the backside with a parking ticket.

Meanwhile, Miami activist Billy Corben parked a billboard truck outside the meeting on Dinner Key, blasting audio of Commissioner Carollo’s daughter calling 911 to report her father for punching her mother.

Then there’s “Florida’s worst cop,” a fellow by the name of German Bosque, who has been fired for misconduct ranging from robbing suspects to excessive force no fewer than seven times by the Opa-Locka Police Department, which seems to be, it must be said, a bit slow in the uptake.

Opa-Locka P.D. canned Sgt. Bosque one more time in May after he “failed to secure a firearm at a crime scene,” which is to say that a real gun got replaced by a toy one, and instructed a junior officer to lie about the whole thing.

He’s trying to get his job back.

Long-time Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd gained a certain notoriety in 2006 when his officers shot a suspect 68 times. “That’s all the bullets we had,” he said, “Or we would have shot him more.”

Sheriff Judd remains weirdly bloodthirsty. In September this year, when his deputies captured the mentally ill man who allegedly murdered four people, one of them a baby, Judd allowed as how he’d have preferred to shoot the suspect “a lot.”

As Judd put it: “It would have been nice if he’d have come out with a gun, and then we’d have been able to read a newspaper through him.”

The sheriff further illustrated his humanity, his fealty to due process, and his understanding of the U.S. Constitution in April this year when he appeared with Ron DeSantis, praising the governor’s court-challenged anti-riot bill (the one that allows you to run over protesters if you feel “threatened”), advising in-comers to check their liberal values at the border.

“Welcome to Florida,” said Judd, “But don’t register to vote and vote the stupid way you did up North or you’ll get what they got.”

Consider y’all’s selves warned, Yankees.

‘God’s first choice’

And while we’re on the subject of dubious constitutionality, in late September Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell spoke during a three-day all-expenses-paid retreat in North Carolina, sponsored by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

The famously Islamophobic, homophobic, and misogynist BGEA hosted a conference of chief law enforcement officers at The Cove, their swish Blue Ridge resort. Cheaper rooms run about $650 for two nights.

Our Tallahassee, a new media outlet covering the capital city, got its hands on audio of Revell’s 49-minute speech in which he boasts the ACLU sent him a letter about that separation-of-church-and-state thing after his swearing-in ceremony, which was stiff with pastors laying hands on him and delivering Christian prayers.

If you’re an officer who’s Jewish or Muslim, whatever faith or no faith, you could be forgiven for wondering if the chief has your back. Especially after he spelled out his vision for Tallahassee’s cop shop.

Did Revell address the town’s seriously high crime rate? Promise more community policing? Innovative solutions for gun violence?

That’s fiery-furnace hell, no. He told his fellow chiefs their departments’ first priority should be to lead their officers “to know Jesus Christ as their lord and savior.”

Chiefs should work Jesus into their conversations: “How will you use your platform to advance God’s kingdom?” he said. “What is your agenda for presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ to your officers?”

Revell seems to think that God hand-picked him: “While I wasn’t the city’s first choice, I was God’s first choice,” he said.

This is, at best, a perverse understanding of municipal H.R. practices and, at worst, a display of the sin of pride.

God did not hire him. Goad did.

That is, Tallahassee city manager Reese Goad, who (possibly for Old Boy Network reasons) sabotaged the candidacy of the city’s actual first choice, the highly-regarded Antonio Gilliam, assistant police chief of St. Petersburg.

Revell asked the assembled throng, “When people look at you, do they see Jesus?”

Seems like when the citizens look at their police chief, or their sheriff or an officer on the beat, they should see a dedicated and open-minded public servant. They should see someone who acknowledges the humanity of all, no matter their faith, ethnicity, color, gender, or sexual orientation.

They should see someone who cares about the Constitution, has heard of the Establishment Clause, and realizes that there’s a slew of Supreme Court precedents taking a dim view of the state favoring one religion over another.

But this is Florida, so it might be wise to lower your expectations.

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Diane Roberts
Diane Roberts

Diane Roberts is an 8th-generation Floridian, born and bred in Tallahassee, which probably explains her unhealthy fascination with Florida politics. Educated at Florida State University and Oxford University in England, she has been writing for newspapers since 1983, when she began producing columns on the legislature for the Florida Flambeau. Her work has appeared in the New York Times, the Times of London, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the Oxford American, and Flamingo. She has been a member of the Editorial Board of the St. Petersburg Times–back when that was the Tampa Bay Times’s name–and a long-time columnist for the paper in both its iterations. She was a commentator on NPR for 22 years and continues to contribute radio essays and opinion pieces to the BBC. Roberts is also the author of four books, most recently Dream State, an historical memoir of her Florida family, and Tribal: College Football and the Secret Heart of America. She lives in Tallahassee, except for the times she runs off to Great Britain, desperate for a different government to satirize.

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