By: Saraana Jamraj
After two weeks of controversy and debate around Commissioner Mike Gelin, Deputy Joshua Gallardo, decorum, and injustice, the saga came to a climax as Gelin was faced with the possibility of censure – a public reprimand.
Leading up to Monday night’s city commission meeting, developments poured in, as did coverage of the incident. Last week, Tamarac Talk released the video, which verified Gelin’s claims by highlighting several inconsistencies in the police report and both those in support and opposition were able to speak their minds on October 7.
Before public comments, Gelin addressed the audience:
“It is clear from the calls, emails, texts, that it struck a chord locally and nationally. It touched on a topic that runs on the undercurrent, something that people refuse to talk about,” he said.
He spoke about the embarrassment he felt when his five-year-old son asked him if he was arrested.
“Yes, but I was not supposed to be,” he told his son.
Gelin explained how traumatic his experience was, but in the wake of the controversy, he learned he is not alone. He mentioned constituents he spoke to who had similar experiences, who have suffered in silence.
He clarified his support for law enforcement and challenged the notion that criticizing one of them means criticizing all.
“I would hope and pray that justice is not some hollow word that we throw around, but something that we all — civilians and law enforcement strive for. We can improve police and community relations while increasing police accountability,” said Gelin, announcing an initiative to find a solution.
Then, the public comments began.
They began with the ire of two law enforcement officials, Neal Glassman and Rich Rossman, who were angry with Gelin for his actions regarding Deputy Gallardo. They were also upset with the rest of the commission, except for Mayor Michelle Gomez, for their condemnation of the Broward Sheriff’s Office after the Delucca Rolle assault.
Former Captain Glassman said, “I must inform you, as the recently retired police chief for the city, the current situation is not sustainable. There is a difference between legitimate criticism of a deputy, and using a platform of the city commission to embarrass, humiliate, and berate that deputy.”
Other speakers from the law enforcement community supported his claims that relations between the deputies and the community were worsening, echoing his anger.
However, as the night went on, the voices of those spoke up in support outnumbered others, and the experiences they shared softened the tone of those in opposition.
Out of 29 public speakers, 19 were there in support of Gelin. The differences were apparent: Those in opposition were white and spoke about the inappropriate time and place of his confrontation, those in support were people of color, and spoke about the unique difference of experiences that black and white people have with law enforcement.
Thaddeus Gamory represented the intersection at which the controversy existed between law enforcement and people of color. As a black former police lieutenant of the New York Police Department, he now works teaching police officers mindfulness skills, with the Center for Mind-Body Medicine.
He spoke about the post-traumatic stress he experienced, as well as the problem of racism. Gamory recalled that the NYPD in the 1990s had to teach white police officers not to shoot black people. He called law enforcement an honorable profession but said left to its own devices; it would not grow or evolve in the way it needed to. At the podium, he called for post-traumatic growth.
“The trauma that was expressed by Commission Gelin is real. That’s a real trauma that’s too often overlooked, that the power of arrest is an awesome power and it should be wielded lightly. It should be done with compassion, truth, and equity,” said Gamory.
That trauma and fear that minorities often feel when dealing with police officers was a common theme throughout the evening. Several explained, in tears, that they had either been wrongfully arrested or targeted. Others described the constant fear of having young black children who might one day encounter a rogue police officer.
“Everyone is saying there’s a time and a place to call someone out on a certain agenda, but when this commissioner was being arrested, being humiliated and embarrassed in front of his community…was that done in a private moment?” asked Aletha Redwood.
After public participation, the commission took a 20-minute break. When they returned, all but Commissioner Gelin spoke. Mayor Gomez, Vice Mayor Debra Placko, and Commissioner Julie Fishman all expressed both empathy for their colleague and support for law enforcement, still wishing that he would have expressed himself more professionally.
“I continue to vehemently disagree, and I will always disagree with the time and place approach that Commissioner Gelin used in expressing his complaints,” said Mayor Gomez.
She went on to speak about the harm and ridicule the national spotlight has brought to Tamarac.
“Our police deserve much better,” said Mayor Gomez. “No one, much less an elected leader in our city, should knowingly put Tamarac in the position of having its reputation damaged by attracting the kind of negative attention we’ve seen with this incident.”
While they each still expressed personal disapproval, they also heard the calls for unity and moving forward, and did not call for a motion to censure Gelin or vote on the matter.
“I feel good about it,” said Gelin, “It was important for people to show up and express themselves and give the city commission the chances to hear about experiences and perspectives different from their own.”
- Saraana Selene Jamraj is a writer, activist, and a student pursuing her master's degree in mass communications at Florida International University.
She's currently the communications manager at The Salt Box in Parkland and has lived in Coral Springs since 2004.