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IN MY OPINION


Hallandale Beach

Mayor Joy Cooper

Joy@mayorcooper.com

@mayorcooper 


By Mayor Joy Cooper 

HALLANDALE BEACH - Basic Law Enforcement Recruit Training is eye-opening

Over the past week, one of the most important workshops took place with the Hallandale Beach City Commission. Last Monday, we went to Broward College Institute of Public Safety for a crash course in Basic Law Enforcement Recruit Training, it was truly eye opening. While some have spun this into political theatrics, it is nothing to poke fun at.
    Law enforcement officers are required 770 hours of training to be eligible to take the State Officer Certification Exam S.O.C.E. If the candidate passes, then they can apply to become a Law Enforcement Officer or a State Deputy. They will not become certified until they are officially hired by a department.  
    To apply to take the course, you need to be at least 19 years of age, a citizen of the US, show good moral character, process a high school diploma or GED deemed acceptable by the Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, a FL driver’s license. The applicants for law enforcement must also have an acceptable driving record. This means less than 3 moving violations within the last three years. Suspensions will be reviewed and may preclude them from the process. Obviously, they must be free of convictions. If an applicant used marijuana within one year, other drugs including the misuse of prescription drugs within 3 years they are not eligible. Also, anyone with a dishonorable discharge is not eligible. Our city has additional educational and psychiatric requirements before hiring police officers.
    Requirements also include that individuals cannot have offensive tattoos seen or unseen that suggest racism, gang or hate. Visible tattoos depending on their content also or prohibited, this includes sexually suggestive. This is only step one.
The second step is Basic Abilities Testing, T.A.B.E (Test of Adult Basic Education), Motor Skills testing and a swim test. Each applicant must pay for these, after passing all you can apply. There are only 5 students accepted for the course at a time. If you want to find out more, you can research State Statute 943.13. As you can see, there are robust requirements before you even start down the path to become a police officer.
    As part of the requirements to sit for the exam, you must go through training exercises both at the state-of-the-art virtual training facility and also on street patrol. We received firsthand experience for only one day and we were focused on experiencing what an officer may go through deciding the “Use of Force” which is set out in State Statute 776.05. This state law is based on Graham vs. Connor Supreme Court decision.
    The law provides for the officer the "Use Of Force" when she or he reasonably believes it to be necessary to defend themselves or another from bodily harm while making an arrest. Retaking felons who have escaped or are committed to arresting felons escaping or fleeing from justice, this does not constitute a defense in civil actions for damages brought for the wrongful use of deadly force, unless it was necessary to prevent the arrest from being defeated by such flight and when feasible, some warning had been given. The law adds, if there is a reasonable belief by the officer, the felons possess a threat of death to the officer or others or the feeling that the felon has committed a crime by the inflection or threat of infliction of serious physical harm to another person. One can see that this law is where there are so many issues and every incident is different. We all have a shared responsibility to understand these laws before passing judgment.
   Our one day training showed us just how important training is, when these life and death decisions are made. They are not made in split seconds but often in 100th of a second. The questions and recent publicized events have brought to the forefront the “Use Of Force” debate. As our Deputy Chief Michaels shared in every instance, there are actions that are legal but are they right. The super majority of officers are making good decisions and legal decisions that may not always seem right to the public. The goal is to have a balance between legal and right. In my opinion this means training, training and training. It does not just mean cameras.
   Cameras are a tool in documenting an incident. An officer has at their disposal many tools; their presence at a scene, verbal communication, pepper spray, Taser and a gun. All of the above are used when an officer is making a decision when addressing an incident, the implementation of a new tool is a crucial decision. It is not just about money, it is about the safety of residents and officers.
This is why I have been pressing for a pilot and clear understandable policy for both officers and the public. Rather than an instant pulling of the trigger, on a new program requiring all officers to have a camera. When a trained officer is adding a tool that must become part of their second nature, there is no need for a rush. Our city Manager and our Chief have agreed to this approach. This is why even the implementation of the pilot has taken time.
   After coming back from a USCM conference of Mayors event that focused on the Topic “Will your city be the next Ferguson?,” I came back wanting to evaluate every aspect of our department and interactions in our city. We are undergoing a full independent evaluation of our department, it is not complete yet. You can and should be a part of it.
   We have held the first of Public Forums Connect Communicate Collaborate and recently, the hands on workshop. It’s not just about one solution or money, it is about a holistic approach to ensure our department remains proactive so we truly are not the next Ferguson.
   Another tool to prevent crime is, our top notch PAL program. Over 1100 children are involved in our many sports teams that are offered. This does not just mean participating in sports, it also requires dedication to academics. Two of our young adults have been recognized nationally due to their combination of athletics and studies; Jalenne Caradin and Isabella Cespedes.
    They were selected as First Team All-American Senior Scholars by POP Warner, the largest Cheer and Football organization in the country. Only 35 students from each grade nationally, are selected. We have two 8th graders on team 1! They have maintained a 96% grade point average.  
     As a parent of three and a grandmother, I understand how important athletics are to creating well-rounded students and the overall health of our children. PAL is always looking for support. Get involved and help to offset the costs of these programs for the many needy and deserving children in our city. You can make a check payable to PAL of Hallandale Beach and mail it to C/O PAL of Hallandale Beach, 400 South Federal Highway, Hallandale Beach, FL 33309.
Or go to: http://www.gofundme.com/PALScholar-athlete.

 As always, please feel free to contact me any time with your questions, concerns and ideas on how to make our city a better place at my office: (954) 457-1318. On my cell/text at: (954) 632-5700. Or visit my web-site at: www.mayorjoycooper.com.