SIXTY YEAR POLICE ANNIVERSARY – WHO’D A THUNK IT?

On July 26th, 1960, Dwight D. Eisenhower was in his waning months as president; Brenda Lee’s “I’m Sorry” topped the music charts; baseball Yankee, Mickey Mantle would become the home run champ while most of the south still practiced strict segregation based on race.

     Meanwhile, Dade County was hiring an unlikely new rookie cop.

     Downtown Miami was dark and quiet at 10:50 p.m. Thick with fog, the summer night air was like breathing pea soup. I parked my stick-shift, 1955 green Pontiac in a parking lot free to county employees, and walked toward the 28-story courthouse, the only building with lights on. It was the tallest structure in Florida until 1967.

     July 26th, 1960, would become a memorable day in the life of this unfocused violinist who needed a real job to support an 18 year-old wife and a new baby on the way. The application for police officer sailed through the system unchallenged. Here I was wearing an over-sized bus-driver’s blue uniform denoting me as a rookie, age 21. Looking to the sky, I marveled at the pyramid summit of this mighty building in downtown Miami that housed the county jail and other administrative offices and courts. It would be my pre-hire employment venue for two weeks along with two other rookies, older than me,

     The last job I ever wanted would be carrying a gun and barking orders to people twice my age, or worse, arresting them for breaking laws. I felt like a little boy playing grown-up.

      The courthouse was my first step into the cop world. Yes, I was nervous and unsure of myself, but the pay would be good, as was job security. Thank goodness for my stepfather, Bernie the bookie, an old friend of mobster Meyer Lansky, who had connections in the Dade County Sheriff’s Department.

     I exited the elevators at the 19th floor, watching cops hustling to and fro. A large distinguished man, white haired and lumbering, Captain Noah Scott gave me a dutiful lecture then handed me over to an overweight officer from Texas who would show off his mighty brawn with inmates, for my benefit.

     Wham, Whack, Zing, Ohhhh…the Texan was showing me the ropes, how to calm an inmate, a drunk teen, and ordered him to bend naked and show his stuff. Never can tell where those weapons might be.

     Oy.

     Maybe I can work for a grocery store, a car wash, or better yet a symphony orchestra. This wasn’t for me. But I was only twenty-one with two mouths to feed. It was my job to stand tall and suck it up.

     The inmate floors were separated by race and gender. Blacks were not to comingle with whites. These were the times when blacks were not permitted on Miami Beach at night without a work permit. All of Miami was segregated, but I thought that was normal.

     Throughout the cell blocks, noises, voices and smells were unpleasant to say the least.

     After two weeks at the jail, I spent eight weeks in the police academy, where I ended up wearing a badge. My first position as a cop was walking the beat at the airport, blowing whistles and writing parking tickets.

     Eventually, I was assigned to the Sunny Isles section of North Miami Beach, which bordered the ocean and a hundred motels. I didn’t write many tickets. Most cops wrote at least 50 to 100 a month, I wrote about ten. I got my butt chewed by Sgt. Butler. So I started hiding behind bushes along the highway at the end of the month, catching speeders, to bolster my numbers. In one instance, I felt so guilty ticketing newlyweds, I paid their breakfast check at IHOP.

     One evening, around 3 a.m., I chased after a speeding car, weaving until it smashed into a light pole. The streets were barren, but I called in the accident and rushed to the driver. He was pinned behind the wheel, moaning, drunk and slippery from blood, trying to get him out. Finally, as I lowered him on the sidewalk, he looked me directly into the eyes. It was his death moment. I’ll never forget feeling a body going limp in my arms. I never knew the man, but I cried anyway.

     This wasn’t the movies. It was reality.

     I went on to enjoy a wonderful career, working with the finest human beings on the planet. I grew up, so-to-speak, and began working in Homicide in 1966 and eventually heading the Homicide Bureau as a captain. The career spanned thirty years and four crashed marriages.

     I witnessed the social and professional changes that took place in the profession over 30 years. It was not all pleasant, particularly dealing with riots, hatred, and ambushing police officers. I’ll never forget the worst race riots in the history of the south, following a “Not-Guilty” verdict for five officers who were charged with beating a man to death…who happened to be black.

     It was unfathomable, to think that I, a career police officer, would be in a position to arrest fellow cops. Alas, someone had to do it. Gut wrenching to be sure. 

     It all began that summer night, 60 years ago in muggy downtown Miami, at the 28-story courthouse, July 26, 1960.

    Happy 60th anniversary to Bob McGavock as well. Sadly, Herb Overly has passed on.

   The whole story can be found in my memoir book, “From Violins to Violence.” Contact me for signed copies.

READ: “THE YEAR OF DANGEROUS DAYS” (non-fiction)

It is rare that I will praise a new book release. But The Year of Dangerous Days is truly a great read, particularly for those who have followed the course of law enforcement and struggles with civil disobedience and crime in Miami in 1979 and 1981.

     Nicholas Griffin, a first-class writer, has authored four fiction novels, and three books of non-fiction. His new book, published by Simon and Schuster, has just been released. I finished it in two days, probably because so much of the content was familiar to me, when I was captain of Homicide in the late 1979 and into the 1980s when the world seemed to go crazy, with the business of drug crimes and bad guys out of control, the McDuffie killing by cops and the riots that followed, murder rates topping the national charts following the Mariel Boat Lift when 125,000 new and destitute residents landed at our shores, plus internal investigations of police officers suspected of corruption which led to FBI intrusion and indictments of cops.

     Old-timers and/or relatives and friends who lived through this era, will certainly find the book a gripping read. I thank Mr. Griffin for acknowledging me and what assistance I could offer – amid scores of other contributors — within a very complicated task.

     The book is available at book stores and Amazon.com, in hard cover as well as Kindle.

     To my friends, past and present, who lived through the era, be prepared for some eye-openers.

     Let me know what you think.     

 

(Check my web site marshallfrank.com for info about my 15 books.)

SUICIDES LIKELY TO SPIKE BECAUSE OF COVID-19 – copy

(This Op-Ed appears this date in the Florida Today newspaper.

 

When researching sources for an article about the impact of coronavirus on mental health problems in America, I didn’t realize the enormity of this issue.

     Naturally, concerns would affect millions of Americans, but the stark figures about the suicide problem, via addiction, poverty, joblessness and depression, are far more serious than anticipated. A 650-word essay can barely touch on a subject which is socially, medically and governmentally immense.

     Here are a few aspects about the pandemic’s impact and how it affects our nation’s state of mental health, derived from a Washington Post article on May 4th.

  • According to a poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, nearly half of Americans claim the current crisis is injurious to their mental health.
  • A federal emergency hotline for people in emotional distress registered more than a one-thousand percent increase in April of this year, compared to 2019.
  • On-line therapy company, Talkspace, reports a 65 percent jump in clients since February.
  • Of the trillions of dollars congress has allocated to fight COVID-19, only a pittance has been directed toward mental health.

     What else could we expect? Mental illness is difficult to measure, though we may be surrounded by sufferers without realizing the scope until a tragedy occurs. Then it’s too late. Mental illness, which often leads to suicide, cannot be touched, seen, felt or tallied.

     There are few gauges to provide measurements in the psychologic forum. In the prison system, mental health facilities and dysfunctional families are awash with unbalanced men and women of all ages, races and education, who are dangerous to themselves and others. Jails and prisons are ill-equipped to tackle the problem. That’s often where mental problems worsen while America looks the other way.

     What we do know is that 124,000 Americans have died in just the last three months from coronavirus and 2.4 million have been infected by the disease. In April of this year, the New York Times reports the jobless rate exploding to over 20 million in four weeks. While the powers within leadership handle matters with science and government resources, and trillions of dollars, there’s little that can be done for the millions of grief-stricken and/or destitute people other than require masks and distancing rules, while we all become prisoners of our own abode. For some, that’s a recipe for stark depression.

     The government has handed out relief funds, but jobless victims and their families continue to deal with poverty, grief from loss, homelessness, joblessness, and self-pity, where the sick get sicker and nowhere to turn. This doesn’t even address the millions of those addicted to drugs and alcohol, living virtually on the edge.

     It is reasonable to expect soaring numbers of suicide victims when the stats finally come in. According to the Centers For Disease Control and Prevention, Americans killed themselves over 48,000 times in 2018, or one victim every 11 minutes. That’s likely to double. At present, statistics for 2020 are not available, though trends tell us a huge spike in self-killing can be expected. Early data from the Disaster Distress Helpline reports a 338% increase in call volume in March 2020, when government mandates went into effect, compared to February .

     Having investigated my share of suicides in Miami over thirty years, (hundreds) I learned that the majority are brought about by enormous despair whether from medical illness, addiction or emotional distress. Losing jobs, self-support, loved ones, personal freedom and basics like food and shelter with no relief in sight, are certain triggers. When the numbers are counted, I’m sure we will see a sharp spike in self-killings in 2020 – the ultimate escape.

     When we, friends and families, witness such despair, we must try to do something to impede the suicide course. Impart love, care and support. Let disputes become bygones, because life is too precious to discard. Those who choose to end their lives will leave a trail of sorrow that never ends.

     I know.

The national Suicide Hotline is 1-800-273-8255.

Marshall Frank is a retired police captain from Miami-Dade County, author and frequent contributor. Visit www.marshallfrank.com

 

 

OFFICER CHAUVIN’S CHOKING MURDER: WHAT WAS THE MOTIVE.

Does anyone really believe that Minnesota Officer Derek Chauvin strangled George Floyd to death because he happened to be a black man? If so, I’ve got some palm trees to sell you in Fairbanks. 

     Old timers remember Paul Harvey as a famous talk-show host (and author) from 20th century best known for his alluring come-on, “Now, here’s the rest of the story.” There surely is more to the story of George Floyd’s untimely and torturous death on May 25th at the hands of Officer Derek Chauvin, that we yet know about.

     We all witnessed the horrendous violence that followed across the nation, which makes no sense because rioters were destroying their own neighborhoods where citizens had nothing whatsoever to do with the killing. Violent protesters gained nothing but non-stop media attention focusing exclusively on a single entity: Racism.

     Racism sells. It stokes the fires of discourse, valid or not.

     Such were the reasons for mega-millions of dollars worth of destruction in over seventy-five cities and nearly two dozen people killed, for nothing. Floyd’s killing exploded mass anger, demonstrations and attacks by rioters on city streets and neighborhoods all over America. People were led to believe Derek Chauvin’s motive was “racism,” pure and simple. According to news sources, at least twenty-one people have died in the riots, including 77 year-old David Dorn, a black Philadelphia retired cop, shot by burglars breaking in to a pawn shop. At least 55 businesses were invaded just in Philadelphia alone.

In all murder cases brought to court, proving motive is very important. So what was the motive in Mr. Floyd’s killing? Racism?

     I think not.

     All the actions (and inactions) of the people involved tell us that the killer and the victim knew each other because they had worked on and off for years at a local bar and restaurant, one as  a bouncer the other a security person. Interviews with some of the patrons acknowledged that the two knew each other.

     Officer Derek Chauvin did not make the arrest (passing counterfeit money). Chauvin was not on the scene until two rookie cops already had Floyd cuffed and subdued outside on the street. It was in this period that Chauvin took over Floyd settling on the street and began applying the deadly knee-to-neck on Floyd for over eight minutes. That’s no accident.

     For what purpose? Because George Floyd was black? I seriously doubt that. The crime clearly occurred in the presence of witnesses. Chauvin knew that. Through experience and background, Chauvin had to know that strangle-holds are deadly, especially after 60 seconds, yet eight minutes. Chauvin kept his knee on Floyd’s neck at least six minutes while alive, then two more after he was dead. That scenario tells me,( a thirty-year police veteran), the killing was deliberate.

     George Floyd was no saint. In this instance, he allegedly had tried to pass a counterfeit $20 bill. He had a number of run-ins with the law in his past, including a five year period in prison for armed robbery in Houston. Before that, Floyd had been arrested numerous times, with lesser sentences in jail, mostly drug crimes. According to the autopsy, Floyd was under the influence of drugs; Fentanyl and methamphetamine.  

     Meanwhile, Chauvin’s seventeen years on the force taught him the rights, wrongs and nuances of violent policing. During those eight long minutes, Floyd was pleading, “I can’t breathe.” Chauvin clearly had to hear that.

     I don’t know if Chauvin’s motive stemmed from very personal issues between the two. Perhaps Floyd had something on Chauvin. Perhaps, it had something to do with counterfeiting. Perhaps Chauvin was high. Floyd was certainly neutralized. The excessive force was unnecessary. A veteran seventeen-year cop isn’t going to risk his pension by arbitrarily deciding to kill another man already in restraints, in the presence of witnesses and cameras, just because he was black. Makes no sense.

     Decrying “racism” is to be expected. But I don’t believe “racism” had anything to do with this crime. We still need to know, “the rest of the story”

     Paul Harvey, where are you?

 

(Marshall Frank, is a retired police captain from Miami-Dade, serving 30 years,including 16 years in Homicide. He has authored 15 books fiction and non-fiction. Visit amazon.com or order direct from author for signed copies, at www.marshallfrank.com

WANNA BE A COP?

Here’s a story about a really bad cop.

     Imagine. You’re a career police officer (white) in a medium-sized city with five years on the job. Wife pregnant in 2014. You support your loved ones as well as the extended family in uniform. You back up other cops when their lives may be in jeopardy. You have testified in hundreds of criminal and traffic cases. A few times in your career, you have faced the barrels of pistols and shotguns, or other weapons.

     You give to the community not only with special activities at on holidays, but as role models for all citizens because you served your community well. You have been awarded special acknowledgements for gallant bravery doing your job. You have risked your life every day on the job.

     You would be ready at any time to save human lives, entering a house on fire, bringing kids to safety or pulling a crash victim from a burning car.

     Yes, some encounters became physical, not by your choice, but by the choice of lawbreakers. You might still have nightmares over killing a black teen who was trying to kill you. But it was, truly, an act of self-defense. No matter. That 18 year-old “boy” had just committed a strong-arm robbery and weighed over 300 pounds, and showed intent to kill you.

     As though on cue, the community ignited into a riotous uproar, declaring you to be a murderer, that the killing of that teen was an act of racism, pure and simple… because you were white and the kid was black. That was the only issue that mattered. Anything you ever did before in your dedicated years of service is null and void, like they never happened.

     Some news media people saturated the scene with cameras and reporters, making sure to get on-scene comments from citizens, many of whom are inspired by hatred. For some stupid reason, “protesters” decided to torch stores, cars and residences showing “unity” among fellow blacks. Cops were declared the “enemy.”

     It doesn’t end there.

     You were an officer who had an exemplary record, yet was declared guilty by segments of the news media and the angry mobsters, long before any court proceedings began. It stirred hatred. The city boiled over with violence. It didn’t matter that the behemoth “boy” had just robbed a grocery store, along with a smaller friend. You were caught off guard as the “boy” suddenly punched you officer in the face through the car window. Then the “boy” reached through and grabbed your gun, which discharged two times. A tussle ensued, the officer kept the gun.

     You were now obligated to arrest the criminal. It’s your job. As the boy started to walk off, you rightfully informed he was under arrest for a litany of felony crimes, including resisting arrest. “Stop! you hollered, gun in hand. The “boy” turned around, lunged forward and began charging you in a menacing manner. There was no choice. There was no time. You knew your life was in jeopardy. You fired several shots. The boy lay dead.

     Never mind that a half-dozen civilian witnesses, all black, later testified at a Grand Jury, that the officer was, indeed, innocent of any wrong doing. Two television media outlets went after ratings as journalists and entertainers from CNN and MSNBC, and The View, condemned the officer, mimicking the “boy’s” outstretched arms, shouting “hands up, don’t shoot.”  It was a lie. The “boy” never said that. It was made up, for effect. You were labeled a “killer” and a “racist” to satisfy them.

     Your name is Darren Wilson. You had been a Ferguson cop with a stellar record for five years. You grew up in multi-ethnic neighborhoods and particularly enjoyed working with blacks, according to a 2015 article in the New Yorker.

     The simmering remains. Just one year ago, the family of the deceased Michael Brown, hired lawyers to file suit against the city. After all, why not?

     Where is Darren Wilson today?  According to a recent interview, he’s living in a low-income neighborhood, incognito. Other than cheap labor, he can’t get a job. He owns a small house, but his name is not on the deed for self protection. When his baby daughter was born, he would not agree to release names in the family. They live in fear of retribution, for doing his job. His future is driven by protecting his wife and child, and to survive.

     Darren Wilson did nothing wrong. He did what was required of him as a police officer. He also saved his own life. Whatever goodness Wilson did in his life, has all been erased. His chances for prosperity and happiness are gone.   

     That’s what you call, a victim.

     Every encounter that leaves a black man dead at the hands of a cop in today’s world is a target on the firing line. The circumstances do not matter. Retribution matters. Police hatred matters. Chaos matters.

     Anyone out there wanna be a police officer today?

 

“A BOY WHO MATTERED” – (non-fiction) tells the story of a 58 year-old drug addict who died a lonely death after a lonely life. He was my son. Available at amazon.com or, signed copies available from the author, yours truly, free shipping. Just order from me at MLF283@aol.com and send check for $15 to P.O. Box 411841, Melbourne, Fl 32941.