By Selene Raj
On Wednesday, the Tamarac City Commission discussed the state of affairs in the nation — and the city — on matters of race, including white supremacy and police brutality.
As Commissioner Mike Gelin began his report, he called out the culture of his colleagues who avoided the issue of police accountability, race, and other serious topics until tragedy strikes.
“Somebody should not have to die a horrible death for us to have a serious discussion,” said Gelin.
Gelin spoke about national incidents, like George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, who was killed while jogging in the street, and Breonna Taylor who was shot and killed by police as she slept.
Gelin then showed his colleagues a 29-minute PowerPoint on police brutality followed by a three-minute video montage –with the national anthem playing in the background.
“That is the lens through which many African-Americans see and experience America,” Gelin said, adding those who do not experience police brutality themselves know that it can happen to any one of them and their family members.
Focusing on issues on closer to home, Gelin included the Delucca Rolle incident where a teen’s head was slammed into the pavement by the Broward Sheriff’s Office in Tamarac, and a 2018 incident where the police shot and killed Jarvis Randall outside University Hospital as he was experiencing a mental health episode, armed only with a piece of broken glass.
Finally, he spoke about own experience when he called out BSO Deputy Joshua Gallardo for an alleged false arrest that made headlines last year.
Gelin said Black Americans are rarely ever given a time and a place to stand up against injustice. In September 2019, he was admonished for calling out the deputy during an “Officer of the Month” recognition at a city commission meeting, as the wrong place and wrong time, but, he pointed out, he had gone through all the appropriate avenues, stating that no consequence ever came to the deputy.
“It’s unfortunate that I can be an elected official and second-class citizen at the same time,” said Gelin.
He wasn’t the only one to call out BSO—Vice Mayor Marlon Bolton, the only other Black official on the dais, spoke amid tears about the difficult conversations he has to have with his five-year-old son about current events.
“[When my son] looks back at how this commission responded, or the lack thereof, to activities that are similar in our community, and some of us did not respond appropriately—it is going to be a sad day,” said Bolton.
At the time of the Delucca Rolle incident in April 2019, Gelin introduced a motion to have all officers involved to be removed from Tamarac until the investigation was concluded. The commission voted 4-1 in favor of his motion, with Mayor Michelle Gomez opposing it.
Gomez defended that vote on Wednesday because she wanted to let the Broward Sheriff’s Office finish doing what they needed to do, before having the city take any action.
Several tangible solutions to Broward Sheriff’s Office misconduct were brought forward by Gelin, including creating a Citizens Review Board, making police pay for their own malpractice insurance rather than making it the responsibility of the city, and a public database of complaints against police officers.
He also proposed that before renewing their contract with the city, renegotiations with the police union are held to hold officers more accountable. He also suggested Tamarac look once again into creating their own police department.
To full meeting can be viewed online.
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- Selene Raj is a writer and a Florida International University graduate. She's completed her Master's in Mass Communications in 2020, and has been living in Coral Springs since 2004. She is passionate about the communities she lives and works in and loves reporting and sharing stories that are as complex and meaningful as the people who live in them.
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