by Elijah Manley
On March 12th the people of Fort Lauderdale will vote on whether to allot a budget request of $100 million to construct a new 165,000 square foot police station and parking garage around the one located at 1300 W. Broward Blvd. This would be funded by raising property taxes $150 over the next 30 years. The reason for this hefty expenditure, according to the city, is that the current building is “functionally obsolete” and “too small,” as it was constructed back in 1958.
To quote Chief Rick Maglion, “This isn’t a building for police officers. This is a building for the community.” But is spending such a large bond for a bigger police station and more military-style vehicles really what the community needs most to deal with the crime problem?
I believe that the most humane way to reduce the crime rate in Fort Lauderdale is not to invest in a bigger police station and more aggressive policing, but more well-paying jobs with superb benefits. An abundance of well-paying jobs with good benefits would curb the level of poverty and offset the widespread idea that honest work doesn’t pay the bills nearly as much as crime. It would lesson the number of people in need of an escape from difficult lives that lead to drug addiction and an entire illegal sub-economy built around it. And an increase in well-paying jobs would be a deterrent to crime that doesn’t require the type of over-policing that invariably leads to too many instances of brutality and, worst of all, racial targeting.
Lest anyone attempts to argue that the Fort Lauderdale police force is bereft of racism, let us remind ourselves of how three officers were recently fired (with a fourth resigning) after it was discovered that the trio had been routinely exchanging text messages containing racist jokes and slurs about various men they had been dealing with, as noted in this article. These texts included liberal usage of the n-word directly aimed at the alleged perpetrators. One of them even joked about his fellow officers killing some of the alleged perpetrators who had previously fled when approached after catching up with them.
Considering the concern over officers engaging in racial profiling and disproportionate shootings of black men in many big cities across the nation, is this something that armed officers of the law should be boasting about amongst each other even in jest? Need we risk placing more of the same on the streets of Fort Lauderdale instead of better jobs and opportunities to help its citizens rise out of poverty so police officers would be less likely to target them?
A large number of well-paying jobs to offset poverty are not the only worthwhile endeavor for the community this suggested budget could be allotted to. For one thing, what about much more affordable housing? This is especially needed considering the sizable homeless population of Fort Lauderdale, which has been internationally noted. This would also address the rising cost of living as well as the increase in property value due to gentrification and overdevelopment. Less people being stuck out on the streets would make for less people being targeted by the police, and much less being tempted into committing acts of theft, drug dealing, or other crimes just to survive.
Then there is the need for LED lights in the city, since the current yellow lights leave the streets much too dark at night. That would decrease evening automobile accidents and make the neighborhoods less palatable to criminal activity, both of which would reduce the need for harsh policing. The sidewalks in low income areas are also greatly in need of repair, and many roads need to be widened to further reduce potential accidents.
Yet another use of the bond that would truly benefit the community would be investment in affordable forms of energy production such as solar power initiatives. This would be good for ending our reliance on fossil fuels to create the electricity we depend upon. Such an allotment could help us to do our part to end the destructive climate change now plaguing the entire planet (which, need I mention, includes this city). This further expands to adding wifi hotspots on every street in the city, which would allow for increased internet access. This would be especially beneficial to lower income families who cannot afford internet and students who need internet access for educational purposes.
Finally, new libraries and community centers would be a boon to the community. Such places would go even further towards reducing the crime rate without an increase in police officers. Less police with arrest quotas would be far better for this city than the reverse. With the many invaluable uses that bond money can be put towards in Fort Lauderdale, I must disagree with Chief Maglione that a larger police station – particularly 100 million dollars’ worth – would best serve this community. What would serve us best is less need for more police. To do that we must invest in positive ways to diminish the poverty, insecurity, and racism that
pervades the lower income areas of the city. Creating a bigger headquarters to hold more police and more para-military vehicles is not the most practical, let alone humane, way to accomplish that goal. I therefore urge the people of Fort Lauderdale to vote accordingly on Marth 12th .