By Saraana Jamraj
After Officer of the Month awards were given to various members of the Broward Sheriff’s Office at Wednesday’s Tamarac city commission meeting, something unexpected happened.
After a group photo op with members of the city commission, Commissioner Mike Gelin unexpectedly took the microphone where he congratulated them all, then asked for one, Deputy Joshua Gallardo, to come back to the front of the chamber.
“It’s good to see you again,” Commissioner Gelin said to Deputy Gallardo. “You probably don’t remember me, but you’re the police officer who falsely arrested me four years ago. You lied on the police report. I believe you’re a rogue police officer. You’re a bad police officer, and you don’t deserve to be here.”
The officer nodded and smiled, without giving a verbal response, then walked away.
Mayor Michelle Gomez, who appeared distressed throughout Commissioner Gelin’s comments, took back the microphone to assure officers that, as a whole, they respect and appreciate the work BSO does.
After that, Commissioner Gelin walked away and did not return for the remainder of the meeting. When he tried to comment at the end of the public budget hearing later that day, his colleagues refused to acknowledge him. While Commissioner Marlon Bolton made a motion to extend the meeting that had been adjourned, allowing Gelin to comment on the matter, Mayor Gomez, Vice Mayor Debra Placko, and Commissioner Julie Fishman voted against continuing.
The division continued Thursday morning when Commissioner Fishman publicly disavowed the actions of her colleague on a Facebook post where she admonished Commissioner Gelin for taking a moment of praise away from an officer, over a personal matter that occurred four years ago.
“One of the most important ideas of being an elected official is conducting oneself with dignity and in an ethical manner; not using the office you are in for personal gain or personal use,” said Commissioner Fishman.
If the officer did anything wrong, Commissioner Fishman did not believe that was the time or place to call him out on it.
Commissioner Bolton urged people not to rush to judgment. He said that he could not imagine how Commissioner Gelin felt in the moment.
He agreed with Commissioner Fishman that officers are human, but emphasized that Commissioner Gelin is too, and likely was reliving a traumatic experience.
“At the end of the day, I know Commissioner Gelin to be an excellent leader and a professional. I hope both gentlemen can, one day, look each other face to face and a healthy conversation for the good of our city,” said Commissioner Bolton.
The incident quickly became viral, with various Facebook pages reposting the video. Thousands viewed the video, with hundreds of comments pouring in.
On one law enforcement support page, Commissioner Gelin was bombarded with criticism. People called for his resignation, called him names, and attempted to give out his personal cell phone number, promising to blow up his phone because of the incident.
When asked by a reporter in 2018 if he had ever been arrested, Gelin recounted the incident and gave a detailed answer, which the Sun-Sentinel did not publish.
“Unfortunately, I have been a victim of a false arrest. Fortunately, I videotaped the incident and my interaction with the police officer, which clearly demonstrated the officer falsified the police report,” said Gelin.
In that statement, he detailed the outcome and the lack of charges filed but attempted to shed light on how often people in the African-American community experience wrongful arrests like his.
“Almost daily, we see accounts of African-Americans being arrested or killed without cause. One in three black males can be expected to be arrested and incarcerated in their lifetimes,” said Gelin.
He went on to call this unacceptable, and point out that this grievance did not mean he was unwilling to work with police to improve community relations.
“I am proud to be endorsed by the Broward County Police Benevolent Association and will work with the PBA and the local Sheriff’s Office to foster programs such as diversity and sensitivity training to improve the relationship and cultural understanding between police officers and the African-American and Hispanic community,” said Gelin.
The police report, which is also now circulating, lists the reason for the arrest as “resisting arrest without violence.” The officer detailed that he arrived at the scene of a fight when Gelin began recording him. Although it was legal to record, the officer reported Gelin was standing too close to the scene, and after being asked multiple times to step back, he refused. At that point, the officer arrested him.
Commissioner Gelin’s account differs from the officer’s version of events, though some of the details corroborate. Both Commissioner Gelin and the deputy were drawn to the scene of a battery when Commissioner Gelin saw two homeless men fighting outside of a Starbucks and walked over with two men to break up the fight.
Before he could get there, one of the men fighting hit the other with a bottle. The one who was hit fell on the concrete, and his head began to bleed. Two officers arrived at the scene, and panicking bystanders asked the officers to do something. Commissioner Gelin stated the officers insisted they had to wait for an ambulance.
The first two officers who arrived at the scene were calm. However, the third, Deputy Gallardo, brought a different energy.
“For some reason, he came over to me, told me to stop recording with my phone,” said Commissioner Gelin. “I asked him why I needed to stop recording, and he gave me an answer, and then he told me that I needed to back up.”
He says he started to back up, and while doing so, questioned the officer.
“I asked him why he wasn’t asking everybody else to back up. He then arrested me.”
Deputy Gallardo’s account of events was inside the report he submitted after booking Gelin. Commissioner Gelin’s account was recorded in the video he took, which showed what happened before and during the arrest.
“I had the video, which contradicted some of the information that he put in the police report, so the State Attorney declined to file charges against me.”
He provided supporting documents corroborating this. Charges were never filed, and the prosecution declined to take the case.
While the incident didn’t result in legal ramifications, it had personal consequences for Commissioner Gelin.
“The arrest was a traumatic incident for me. I was disrespected, humiliated, embarrassed, and spent nine hours in jail. I spent a significant amount of time and money finding a good attorney and dealing with the court system,” said Commissioner Gelin.
The prosecution declining to file charges did not negate the trauma he experienced, he said.
While he’s had both positive and negative interactions with police officers, he lists this one as harmful and damaging. Even though charges were never filed, he still has a mugshot circulating as a result.
To those who believe Commissioner Gelin’s actions imply he has a disregard for law enforcement, he emphasized that this is not the case.
“I have a great deal of respect for the honest and hard-working police officers…I also believe there are some police officers that need to be held accountable for bad actions and violations of their own rules.”
He emphasized that police officers who make unlawful arrests and falsify police reports can ruin a person’s life financially, emotionally, and physically.
After calling out Deputy Gallardo at the public meeting, Commissioner Gelin had a conversation with Sheriff Gregory Tony and Undersheriff Nichole Anderson. While the details of that conversation remain private, he shared that the path forward seems productive and positive.
“We plan on moving forward in a positive and constructive manner,” said Commissioner Gelin.
He understands that some critics may not believe that he respects law enforcement because of this, but maintains that he does.
“I understand that they have a job with a high level of stress, risk, and danger. Some people may not ever believe that. So, I can only demonstrate that with my actions going forward.”
- 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.