Notwithstanding a recent $250 fine from the Miami- Dade Ethics Commission and reprimands for meddling in prescribed city business from the manager and colleagues on the dais, maverick Commissioner Bob Welsh (also known as Bicycle Bob for his neighborhood flyering antics) has been touring police departments from Hialeah to Palmetto Bay to determine if the South Miami Police Department should go.
“This is a personal attack on the police department,” said Police Benevolent Association (PBA) representative for SMPD, Detective Jose Lopez, who believes Welsh’s latest campaign is a result of the recent arrest of Welsh’s friend, homeless handyman Richard Warren Papove. Papove is charged with “illegally re-entering the United States after being deported.” Criminal charges against him have been dropped and he is in custody awaiting immigration proceedings.
“Some may think the law does not apply to everybody,” said Lopez. “The police department has made arrests they have not agreed with and they have turned around and gone after the police department.” The PBA recently submitted a public records request to determine what steps are necessary to begin a formal recall process of both Commissioner Welsh and Mayor Philip Stoddard.
In an emailed response to an interview request, Commissioner Welsh delivered the following statement to South Miami News: “I am not an expert on police departments. I started assembling statistics when I saw the Palmetto Bay 2012-13 proposed budget for their police department and it was about 100K cheaper than ours. For those of us that are somewhat familiar with the differences in our cities, bells should go off in our heads because they have twice the population and three times the land…I need a couple of more weeks of research and let the chips fall where they will fall.”
Mayor Stoddard said he has not seen any of Welsh’s research due to the sunshine law and is uncertain of his aims. “I don’t really know what his goal is and I’m not sure how to quantify performance versus price. Some years back a resident came to me and said we have a lot of cops for a city of our population but we have a commercial district and different policing needs. You can’t make a simple comparison to population and police force.”
Stoddard suggests the recall motivation may be in response to a preliminary analysis he himself put together on crime statistics intended for the city manager alone to review. “I had begun an analysis of multicity crime statistics and gave a preliminary draft to the city manager,” said Stoddard. “It got leaked to the police staff and Valerie Newman and I consider that a breach of trust. It wasn’t intended for public viewing yet and may be the impetus for the (recall) reaction. I am two drafts ahead of that now.”
In response to the allegations of a breach of trust City Manager Hector Mirabile said, “I was doing due diligence. I am in charge of the police department and it was sent to me to review. Nowhere on the document did it say ‘for your eyes only.’ I forwarded it to Lisa Corbin our crime analyst to check if what he is saying is accurate. (However) I was blindsided when Commissioner Newman brought it up.”
Stoddard sent the preliminary crime analysis to Mirabile on Saturday September 1st and the note read verbatim: “Hector, Please review the attached analysis and give me your feedback. Thanks, Phil.” Mirabile also sent a copy to the Chief of Police Orlando Martinez de Castro who then forwarded it to two police department majors.
“I discovered it at a commission meeting and I don’t know how it got there,” said Commissioner Newman. “I am not very savvy with the iPad or drop box system and saw it (electronically) on the bottom of the agenda so I clicked on it and there it was.” She has since posted it on to her blog site: Insidethehornetsnest.com.
“I couldn’t believe it,” continued Newman. “They (SMPD) are doing an amazing job. He (Stoddard) said he didn’t think the DUI checkpoints were effective. This is part of the problem that they (Stoddard and Welsh) are not crime analysts and they don’t know what they are talking about half the time.”
As far as Welsh investigating efficiencies of SMPD by comparison to other municipal departments Newman said: “It is an embarrassment. If he were doing this as a private citizen that’s one thing but those departments are assuming he has the blessing of the entire commission and that is not true. It is wrong for him to do this as a representative of South Miami. He is not following proper procedure and he is abusing his position.”
Chief of Police Orlando Martinez de Castro suggests the gumshoeing efforts of Welsh and Stoddard are demoralizing the SMPD. At the time of this interview the chief was working on a response to Stoddard’s crime analysis. “I am in defense mode. These two individuals are destroying the morale of the police department,” said Martinez de Castro.
Commissioner Harris said Welsh was a bit “overly aggressive” in researching other police departments and talking about outsourcing. “I think he was pulling a Bicycle Bob and not a Commissioner Welsh. He is a bit out of line in some of the things he is doing but his heart is in the right place. I don’t agree with his interpretation or going to police departments. I think the police are doing a good job. Sometimes they are a bit overly aggressive I think but I’m not a police officer and don’t know the situations involved.”
Vice Mayor Josh Liebman said never has he heard so much of an outcry from his neighbors angered about the police department’s efficiency being called into question. “We have the best police in the county,” said Liebman. “Our response time is less than two minutes and is the best south of Orlando. I fully support our police chief and our department and want to let them do their job and stop interfering with their business
Liebman has yet to see Stoddard’s crime analysis report but says all this research activity is “terrible for morale.” “Crime will certainly go up if the police are spending all of their time responding to Commissioner Welsh and Mayor Stoddard. If crime goes up and they (SMPD) are off the streets maybe Bob will achieve his goal.”
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