By: Saraana Jamraj
People around the country have likely seen the viral video of Commissioner Mike Gelin confronting the deputy who had once arrested him. The story made national headlines after the Tamarac commissioner called Broward Sheriff’s Office Deputy Joshua Gallardo a “bad cop” during an awards ceremony to honor local officers.
Commissioner Gelin responded to the national attention, in a public statement released on September 30. He said he was profoundly affected by the wrongful arrest, and the traumatizing experience was relived at the meeting, where a flood of emotions came rushing in and he spoke up as a result.
He clarified his stance on police officers.
“I don’t believe that all police officers are bad. Back in 2015, I had a negative and traumatizing encounter with one officer.”
He spoke not only of the emotional trauma but of the collateral damage that followed his wrongful arrest.
“People see a mugshot, and they automatically believe you are a criminal, but, I am not a criminal. I am a father, husband, business owner, voter, caring neighbor, and so many other things,” said Commissioner Gelin.
The confrontation was contentious. Those who saw the video have reacted either in favor of Commissioner Gelin’s actions or against him.
Mayor Michelle Gomez and Commissioner Julie Fishman both issued statements admonishing him, and Facebook pages such as South Florida LEO Wives accused him of being blatantly disrespectful in ways which should not be tolerated, calling for his removal from office and an immediate apology.
By September 26, the Broward Police Benevolent Association had withdrawn their endorsement.
“As a public official, Commissioner Gelin’s behavior towards a Broward Sheriff’s Office deputy is unacceptable, said the Broward PBA President Rob Skirvin.
While many criticized his actions as being inappropriate, others celebrated his bravery.
Prominent civil rights activist Shaun King, best known for his use of social media to bring awareness to injustice, shared the video of the confrontation to his Facebook and Instagram followers. At press time, his post was viewed by 447,797 Instagram users.
“You are our hero…Sorry, you experienced this, but thanks for using your platform to speak truth to power,” said King.
Ava DuVernay, Emmy-winning director, was impressed as well. Her most recent Netflix series, “When They See Us,” focused on the wrongful imprisonment of the Exonerated Five, who were targeted by a corrupt legal system when they were teenagers.
She referenced the series when quoting a tweet that featured the video of the confrontation.
“Sometimes when they us, they don’t know what’s comin’…stay strong,” said DuVernay.
The common theme throughout praise for Commissioner Gelin was that he had taken his platform, at the risk of criticism and condemnation, and spoken out against injustice- albeit his own injustice – King and others emphasized that there was no wrong place or time to do so.
With the eyes of the world on Tamarac, Commissioner Gelin’s public statement adds another layer of detail to the national saga.
He described the arrest and the failed search for justice, including details about the prosecution’s memo, declining the case, which stated:
“It has been determined a strong likelihood of conviction is not present as images in the video do not support a conviction.”
He recounted his attempts to follow the appropriate channels for wrongful arrests by filing a formal complaint to internal affairs, spoke the county sheriff in 2015, the police captain in his town- and now, the current sheriff. He said nothing ever came of those attempts to hold the deputy accountable but said his conversation with Broward County Sheriff Gregory Tony was constructive.
“He made me an offer for us to work constructively together to bring about positive change and I will do that because I am about action. I don’t want anyone to go through what I went through or worse,” Commissioner Gelin said.
The commissioner also shared that unfortunately, harmful lies have been spread about him and his 5-year-old son, but overall, he is thankful for the support he has received from all over the country.
He expressed hope for progressive dialogue and action.
“I look forward to working with anyone who wants to ensure justice is a reality for everyone in America.”
- 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.