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STATISTICS, ENFORCEMENT AND THE RACIAL DIVIDE

Black Live Matter is a group that carries a lot of clout in the political-racial landscape in America. That’s obvious. What’s not obvious are the statistical facts about alleged racism in law enforcement and justice which shows that all people of all ethnic and racial bases can, and often are, holding prejudices. Of course, Black Lives do Matter, but that’s not to the exclusion of white, browns, Latinos, Asians, females, males, midgets and giants. We ALL matter.
     Too often we hear about terrible disparities in crime statistics and the justice systems in general, particularly as it pertains to race. Based on sheer numbers, it appears that these systems, comprising police, courts and prisons, are prejudiced against black people, invoking accusations of systemic racism at its worst. For the most part, it’s simply not true. Key word: “systemic.”
     Yes, statistics are grossly disproportionate. But there’s a reason. FBI and the Bureau of Justice reveal that over a period of 28 years, 1980 to 2008, over 52 percent of murders were committed by blacks, while 45 percent were by whites. Yet blacks comprise only 12.7 of the population, and black males only 6.3 percent. Thus, citing the sheer numbers of whites versus

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HOW TO REFORM LAW ENFORCEMENT – OP-ED – M. FRANK

(This article appears in news OpEd, Florida Today, this date.)
 

After serving 30 years in Miami-Dade County law enforcement — plus managing a major national security company for four more — I’ve seen my share of problems concerning life, death, crime, security and justice. There is so much to overhaul and streamline, it would exceed the limits for newsprint so I’ll narrow my views to a sampling of ideas.

If I had the magic wand, I would…

  • Do away with electing sheriffs in counties by appointing chiefs/directors much like what’s done in municipalities. It has worked effectively in Miami-Dade County since 1966. Such a system diminishes politics and does away with good-old-boys, or its perception.
  • Renovate the system of small city/town departments by merging local governments for efficiency. This would be more effective with the focus on services, training, and coordinating criminal matters. The four municipalities along 15 miles of Highway A1A is patrolled by four small departments under four police chiefs and its mini-bureaucracies. That could be reduced to one.
  • Reduce jail and prison populations by invoking the European model, which hands out far shorter or lesser sentences while converting savings into funds for training and education.
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TO WIN THE WAR ON DRUGS: LEGALIZE

(This Op-Ed by yours truly appears in today’s issue of Florida Today)
On Nov. 8, just 70 miles south of the U.S. border into Mexico, drug cartel savages opened fire on three American adults and six children, burning and killing them all. Murder is commonplace. It’s not so unusual in Mexico to see bodies hanging from bridges. 
Why? It’s all about messages.
It’s no mystery. Cartels have been killing for years. No matter how many authorities claim they are fighting the drug war, too many — here and abroad — are beholden to warlords, in fear for their lives and the lives of loved ones, so the carnage continues all for money and drugs.
Mexico’s president was criticized recently after he declared a policy of “hugs not guns” in fighting the drug war. He’s too smart to be that stupid.
Arresting drug chieftain El Chapo was good news, though it accomplished nothing. No more than believing that radical Islamic Jihad is stunted because Bin Laden was killed. Great news, perhaps. Nothing changed. Drugs continue to flow. People die.
There are some who have suggested that domestic wars would be over if drugs were legalized. Hmm. Interesting thought. In fact, there

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THE PROBLEM WITH JAILHOUSE SNITCHES. Op-Ed M. Frank

(This article by yours truly appears as an Op-Ed in Florida Today)
 
Jailhouse “snitches” play a wicked role within the bowels of criminal justice. Too many innocent people have spent years — no, decades — locked up (or executed) for crimes they did not commit based on testimony from desperate criminals lying to assist prosecutors in gaining convictions. Whether explicitly promised favors or not, most “snitches” are compensated for their lies in the form of reductions in jail time.
One of the most diabolical examples in Brevard County was the case of 21-year-old William Dillon, arrested for murder in 1981 based on testimony by a dog handler. While in a cell, he supposedly confessed the bludgeoning murder to a stranger, who in turn, blathered the fake conversation to happy prosecutors. Twenty-seven years later, that snitch appeared in front of a legislative committee confessing that he had lied in exchange for leniency. At 48, Dillon walked out of prison, a free man never to retrieve those precious years.
The dog handler, John Preston, was eventually exposed as a fraud, based on several criminal cases where the evidence revealed otherwise. Dillon’s case was featured on FLORIDA TODAY’s podcast Murder on the

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DECADES OF ADDICTION KILLED MY BOY

(This Op-Ed by yours truly, appears in Florida Today, 20 October 2019, under title “I Got The News Families of Addicts Fear.”)
 
In 1972, a flower-child, divorced mother of a 12-year-old named Bennett introduced her son to marijuana. Pot use had been common in the household, so she said to Bennett, “Here. Try this. You don’t have to do this behind my back.”
So he did. Not only that, he found her secret stash in a closet and brought a pocketful to school, which turned out as a lucrative endeavor, hoisting his status to a seventh-grade drug dealer.
Not only did his mother ignorantly and wrongfully teach him that drugs were harmless, the subliminal message was worse, as he wondered why the one person who is supposed to protect her child from wrongdoing, actually encouraged it. So he wondered: Why doesn’t my mom love me?
Fast forward to age 18. After several episodes of runaway behavior, minor crimes and shifting residences with his single father, Bennett began showing signs of mental problems. A prominent psychiatrist diagnosed him as “manic-depressive,” which entitled Bennett to Social Security disability income from the government. Bennett spent three months in a treatment center

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CORRECTIONS OFFICERS – AMERICA'S FORGOTTEN HEROES. Op-Ed M. Frank

(This Op-Ed was published in Florida Today, Sept 24, 2019.)
 
Out of sight, out of mind.
That adage applies to many entities or programs throughout our land. The most visible of professions are public servants who make society a safe place to be. Naturally, we think of police officers, firefighters and military, plus many skilled workers who ensure our power lines are functioning, roads are repaired and pilots are flying airplanes that carry people 2.7 million people daily in the U.S.
They, plus many more, are heroes. They’re out there in plain sight, and greatly appreciated.
There is, sadly, one exception.
The most underappreciated public servants in America are corrections officers or jail guards. Unless we have a significant friend or relative in prison, we rarely give a second thought to one of the most dangerous jobs on the planet. Out of sight, out of mind.
In my 30 years as a Miami-Dade County cop, I often met with corrections officers and wondered how they were able to maintain a positive attitude, managing inmates and coping with the pall of danger from the moment they arrive at work to the minute they finish their shift. I recall many officers

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FOCUS ON GUN ACCOUNTABILITY NOT CONTROL: Op-Ed. M. Frank

(This article appears as Op-Ed in Florida Today, this date)
 
Here we go, focusing on “control” as a means to fix the nation’s problems with gun violence. Government leaders, to one degree or another, offer the perennial answer which is to control gun ownership by people who have a history of mental illness and/or felonious behavior. We’ve been doing this for many years. How’s it going so far?
     Now, the House of Representatives is considering new legislation which will improve background checks, ban high-capacity magazines and create red-flag laws entitling local police to remove guns from people believed to be a threat. Well, something is better than nothing. But it will not reach the heart of the problem. Nothing is really going to change.
     Year after year, decade after decade, we’re constantly focusing on “gun control,” instead of “gun accountability” as the issue in need of attention. Background checks are important, but they do not identify people who have severe mental problems unless they’ve already been incarcerated, and then it’s too late. Most of the recent notorious shooters had no past record by which a background check would mean anything. The real issue should be “accountability” and not “control.”

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