Just wanted to let you know that I'm in the final steps of finishing up an important post that I will be emailing you on Saturday morning -and subsequently posting to my blog- that you will find of particularly compelling interest and gravity regarding the Hallandale Beach Police Dept.
I'm currently double-checking some of the dozens of photos I have and sequencing them to better tell the tale I have to share.
I believe that when you read it, you will be just be as shocked and indignant as I was when I first came to realize that this particular "situation" was being handled in the completely unprofessional way it was.
Sadly, it's just the latest all-too-true story in this city that badly needs people in charge more devoted to public service than self-service and cronyism.
I say indignant for a reason, because what has actually happened here, after-the-fact, to someone who lives in this community, could just as easily happen to you or someone you care for.
It's a post that I wish i wasn't having to write, but circumstances dictate that someone in this community publicly reveal something that's been flying under-the-radar for weeks, and since nobody else has stepped-up to the plate, I'm the one who's going to take my swings -and believe me, I fully intend on connecting.
If you can possibly manage it, please make plans to be present at the Hallandale Beach City Commission meeting next Wednesday morning, July 7th, at 10 a.m. for Public Comments, and be sure to bring what I'm sure will be your growing sense of outrage, too.
You won't regret it, but you do need to be heard, too.
You see, unless something quite unexpected transpires in the next few days, after years and years of unacceptable behavior and performance, and Mayor Cooper and the HB City Commission completely ignoring the self-evident facts in front of them, there's finally going to be some public accountability and reckoning for this community's beleaguered citizens for the unethical actions, criminal behavior and unsound policies of Hallandale Beach Police Chief Thomas Magill.
When you connect-the-dots on his past indefensible actions, which I have a few newspaper articles below to refresh your memories, and add them to the latest bit of information I'll have to share with you, perhaps you will now finally agree with me that it's long past time for mendacious and intentionally deceitful Thomas Magill to hit the road for good -and NOT look back.
Magill's longstanding willingness to intentionally mislead and lie to the public -as well as and our elected representatives who are legally responsible for providing oversight- without breaking a sweat, as I personally witnessed two weeks ago, only makes his documented corruption and incompetency more galling.
Not that any of this has ever bothered Mayor Cooper or former HB City Manager Mike Good, though, since they have NEVER once held a PUBLIC forum or meeting to discuss any aspect of his behavior, conduct or management over the years.
There's a very good reason why Magill was re-hired at a City Commission meeting without it ever appearing on the public agenda, in a second-floor City Hall room without TV cameras to record the proceedings.
As I've said so often, that's not by accident, that's the way that Cooper and Good planned it. Oh, and did I mention that I'm finally going to get FDLE involved in the Magill picture, too? You bet I am!
The more the merrier.
What better way to connect-the-dots on Magill and the HB Police Dept. that far too frequently plays the role of mean-spirited Keystone Kops, than to have FDLE finally have to get off-the-dime and either do something tangible in the way of a formal investigation of him, or, quit their bluffing.
One way or the other, though, they're going to have to do something, because things are changing in this city and the incompetent and corrupt who've long held sway at HB City Hall -and their minions- can no longer brazenly dare the community to stop them from their misdeeds or foolish policy follies.
You and I are calling their bluff and raising the stakes, and we are pushing back -HARD!
I will give you this hint about Saturday's email, though:
What's THE worst possible thing you can do during an active search for a 'missing person'?
In case you forgot what Thomas Magill was all about -he tried to frame two innocent people and used taxpayer dollars to do it- or how poorly the story about the settlement was covered, let's go back into the South Beach Hoosier Time Machine.
Also, when is the Sun-Sentinel going to finally admit that they were "had" in their foolish rush-to-judgment editorial?
Four years and nine months and counting...
I hardly need to mention that the Herald has NEVER written a single story about the settlement, which ran on the front page of the Local section of the Sun-Sentinel.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
Hallandale to pay to settle one of two former police officers' lawsuits
By John Holland
January 28, 2008
HALLANDALE BEACH - City commissioners have agreed to pay more than $100,000 to settle a lawsuit alleging Police Chief Thomas Magill falsified evidence, a city board held an illegal meeting and detectives persuaded a felon to lie under oath about a fellow officer.
Mayor Joe Cooper and attorney Alberto Milian, who represents former Hallandale Beach
Police Officer Talous Cirilo, confirmed the city's settlement with Cirilo but would not comment further, citing a confidentiality agreement. However, Cooper said the payment was more than $100,000, including attorney fees.
"I'd love to talk about this and tell people what happened, but unfortunately I can't," Cooper said.
Magill referred questions to City Attorney David Jove, who could not be reached for comment.
The settlement comes less than two months after Cirilo filed two lawsuits against the city, alleging wrongdoing in the department and City Hall. Hallandale officials fired Cirilo, alleging excessive use of force, even though a jury acquitted him on battery charges.
Cooper said the secrecy is warranted because a separate lawsuit, filed in federal court by former acting Police Sgt. Mary Hagopian, has not been settled. She promised to speak about the settlement at a later date "if I'm allowed to."
Magill and City Manager Mike Good fired the officers two years ago after prosecutors charged them with misdemeanor battery on prisoner Michael Brack. Early on April 1, 2005, Brack beat his brother as they fought in a moving car, then attacked officers who tried to intervene, according to arrest records and police reports.
Months after the arrest, a civilian employee said Cirilo choked and used a Taser device excessively on Brack.
More than a year later, the State Attorney's Office charged Cirilo with three misdemeanor battery counts. Hagopian was charged with a misdemeanor for using the stun gun on Brack as he struggled with officers in a jail holding area.
Defense lawyers said Magill orchestrated the charges as part of a vendetta against Hagopian and to show his bosses at City Hall he was a disciplinarian. Testimony at trial showed police employees mishandled two key pieces of evidence - a video surveillance tape and software from the Taser - distorting the confrontation between the officers and Brack, defense lawyers argued.
Prosecutors tried the officers separately, but jurors reached the same conclusion, acquitting them after about 15 minutes of deliberation.
After the acquittals, the officers tried to get their jobs back, but Magill and city officials refused.
In one of the lawsuits, Milian accused the city civil service board of holding an illegal meeting outside City Hall on Oct. 9, 2007, one week before a scheduled hearing on the reinstatement.
Florida law mandates that all meetings be advertised and prohibits public officials from meeting out of the public eye or discussing cases with each other. At least six board members met and discussed the meeting in a "knowing violation" of the law, according to the lawsuit.
Good, the city manager, could not be reached for comment.
Hagopian, a 15-year veteran, and Cirilo, on the force for five years, hired different lawyers and filed in different jurisdictions but made the same argument: Magill pressured his internal affairs officers and detectives to manipulate evidence and coerce false statements out of Brack so he could fire the officers and enhance his image as a reformer.
Magill used public money to have officers track down Brack on a Louisiana oil barge, where he ended up after leaving Broward County and forfeiting his bail, both lawsuits assert.
The State Attorney's office dropped all the assault charges against Brack, including the attack on his brother, then used him to testify against the officers.
The chief temporarily assigned several officers to internal affairs without any training, for the sole purpose of building a false case against the officers, Hagopian's lawyer Rhea Grossman said in court papers.
Magill sparked criminal charges against Hagopian "by preparing directly or at his direction police reports containing false or misleading information," Grossman wrote. Both lawsuits contend Magill elicited false testimony and compiled misleading evidence that he took directly to prosecutors.
U.S. District Judge William J. Zloch tossed out four counts last month, saying they belong in state court. He refused to dismiss two others, including one alleging Magill presented false information to prosecutors so Hagopian would be arrested. Zloch also let stand a charge that the city had a policy of not training internal affairs officers that, Hagopian argued, "encourages fabricated evidence for the sole purpose of allowing the whims of its police chief to terminate employees."
Milian said last week that the jury's quick acquittals proved the charges were bogus.
"This case was an abomination from the very beginning, and good officers were hurt," Milian said. "It could ultimately have a chilling effect on officers who want to protect themselves and their colleagues but are afraid because they could get in the same type of situation."
QUICK VERDICT EXPOSES CASE FOR WHAT IT IS
November 14, 2006
The prosecution's battery case against Talous Cirilo can be measured in minutes. A Broward County jury deliberated 24 minutes Monday before acquitting the former Hallandale Beach cop.
That was fast. But in June, a jury took only 14 minutes to reject the charges against Cirilo's codefendant and fellow cop Mary Hagopian.
No one was surprised by either verdict.
The battery cases against the two officers had been built around the complaint of a bail-jumping, coked-out, drunken brawler who had been busted earlier that evening for pummeling his own brother.
The misdemeanor charges had been filed with a stunning lack of corroborating evidence. No medical evidence. No photographs.
Weeks ago, the judge had tossed out an indiscernible mess of a videotape that supposedly captured the incident.
The only mystery lingering over the case against Talous Cirilo is why, of all the allegations of police brutality tossed around Broward County, the state attorney's office chose to pursue one so empty.
``I don't know what's going on over at the state attorney's office,'' said Dick Brickman, the president of the Broward Police Benevolent Association. He said other cops around the county must now worry that, for a little political juice, the state attorney's office would pursue even the flimsiest of complaints.
This case was very flimsy. On April 1, 2005, a Louisiana drifter named Michael Brack, admittedly drunk and coked up, had been involved in brawl at a strip club, fled that fight, then had turned on his own brother in the back seat of a moving car. The attack was so violent that the rear window of the car was kicked out.
Hallandale Beach cops pulled the car over, arrested Brack for battery and resisting arrest with violence. He continued his nasty behavior, spitting and yelling, at the Hallandale Beach Police Department as Cirilo and Hagopian tried to book him.
Then, Brack claimed, he was choked, kicked, his head knocked to the floor and he was subjected to unwarranted Taser shocks.
Even though Brack miraculously was spared scratches, bruises or injury in his ordeal, prosecutors took him at his word - when they finally tracked him down.
Brack had jumped bail and was a fugitive until prosecutors agreed to drop charges against him if he testified.
An internal investigation by the Hallandale Beach Police Department also came up with a community service aide who said she saw Cirilo choke Brack. But her credibility was hurt by a very lousy work record, including insubordination and refusal to obey orders. And her details clashed with some of Brack's.
That was it. The extent of the prosecution's case.
``It was an awful investigation. It was a rush to judgment. I think the jury verdict bore that out,'' said Alberto Milian, Cirilo's lawyer. Milian blamed the prosecution of the two cops on political pressure out of Hallandale Beach City Hall.
Talk about politics and ambition trumping justice circulated among the cadre of Hallandale Beach cops attending the trial Monday. The quick verdict only seemed to validate those theories.
``This case should never, never have been brought to trial,'' Milian said. The lawyer said the June trial against Hagopian and the subsequent lightning verdict had exposed the case for what it was. Or wasn't.
Yet the prosecution brought back Michael Brack for a reprise last week and he was so combative and disagreeable that it was a wonder that jurors didn't pelt him with their shoes. ``You don't have to like him,'' prosecutor Catherine Maus told the jurors Monday, trying desperately to rehabilitate her tarnished star witness. ``He is who he is.''
This case was what it was. And the jurors didn't have to like it.
South Florida Sun-Sentinel
ISSUE: Two police officers are fired amid accusations of Taser abuse
Sunday, December 11, 2005
Hallandale Beach City Manager Mike Good has provided an object lesson for other agencies on how to handle the controversy over the use of Taser stun guns by police officers. He fired two cops accused of repeatedly using Tasers on a man who was already under arrest, handcuffed and in a holding cell.
That's an apparent misuse of stun guns, which should be employed only when there is no safer way to subdue a suspect. In this case, though, one of the officers is also accused of choking the suspect into unconsciousness, a sign that this may have been a simple case of police brutality in which the Taser was merely one of the tools of abuse.
Both officers have been charged with misdemeanor battery by the Broward County State Attorney's Office. That prompted their attorney to complain, incredibly, that a thorough investigation had not been done and that she's "not aware of any other state attorneys' offices that charge cops for doing their job."
Maybe she should open her eyes and look around. Police who abuse their authority get charged with crimes quite often. Is brutalizing prisoners her idea of police just doing their job?
Officials say these cops were trained in the use of Tasers, which, when used properly, are a valuable alternative to lethal police service weapons. They should have known they'd be crossing a line if they used Tasers on a confined and handcuffed prisoner.
The officers will have a chance to challenge their dismissals. Whatever the outcome, Good has set a standard that other South Florida agencies should adopt, if they haven't already. Tasers should be used sparingly and only when necessary. Police should be fully trained in their use. And using Tasers as a means of brutalizing suspects shouldn't be tolerated.
BOTTOM LINE: This is the right approach to the controversy over Tasers: keep them in use, but punish officers who abuse them.