Hollywood police work to correct mismanaging of Property and Evidence Unit

The Hollywood Police Department is continuing to work on correcting its mismanagement of its Property and Evidence Unit, the Broward Office of the Inspector General reported Thursday in a news release.

The OIG reported in February that Hollywood police officials failed to institute protocols that are consistent with industry standards, which led to the theft of $137,609 in cash and 1,096 pills from its evidence room.

The OIG found that there was a lack of control in limiting access to the evidence room and some evidence that was needed to prosecute some criminals was unavailable after the thefts.

The report said there were no security cameras in the room to capture images of the thieves.

According to the latest news release from the OIG, Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez provided the OIG with a status report that details the results of the police department’s remedial actions, which include:

-The continued purging of items from the unit, including 1,224 items purged and another 3,440 items identified to be purged.

-Two drug burns and a third burn scheduled.

-The transport of an additional 100 firearms to the Broward Sheriff’s Office to be destroyed.

-Adding two clerk positions to the PEU.

-Finalizing a manual which established guidelines for the PEU.

-Spending about $66,000 for upgraded storage, scanning and video surveillance functions.

The OIG reported that the police department has also met with vendors to research technology that allows for scanning to accurately track inventory and audit property and evidence.

A PEU supervisor and clerk will also receive training provided by the Property and Evidence Association of Florida.

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Drivers call U.S. 441, Pembroke Road intersection most dangerous in South Florida

South Florida drivers are fed up with the intersection of U.S. 441 and Pembroke Road near Hollywood, calling it the most dangerous intersection in South Florida.

Drivers said the intersection is poorly marked and littered with potholes and everybody on the road is in danger.

But does it deserve the title of the most dangerous intersection?

“I drive everyday 10 or 12 times,” Julio Cedeno said. “It’s horrible. About three accidents a day, different times a day.”

Another man who drives for a living told Local 10 News that construction in the area has caused a mess.

In just about an hour, Local 10 News reporter Andrew Perez saw close call after close call and traffic infraction after traffic infraction.

“It really starts right at Sheridan, and from Sheridan on up right there to county line. It’s horrible,” one driver said.

With construction ongoing on for a chunk of U.S. 441, the Pembroke Road intersection is the area that authorities have seen the most trouble.

Hollywood police reported 30 wrecks there since the start of the year.

Miramar police also has jurisdiction in the area and reported two wrecks this year.

The Broward Sheriff’s Office covers the area, as well.  

There’s next to no signage in the area and road work in the area is expected to continue until winter 2019.

The Florida Department of Transportation promises that improvements are coming.

Construction crews said most of the accidents they’ve seen near the intersection have been south of Pembroke Road and involved vehicles making left turns from either intersections or driveways that are signed as right-turn-only.

Those movements will not be possible once the traffic in both directions is separated during the median construction phase, because only right turns will be permitted.

Multiple improvements are in the works, including adding one through lane in each direction for a total of six lanes, in addition to turn lanes, adding raised medians and constructing a new storm sewer system and retention ponds.

Sidewalks are also expected to be replaced with ADA compliant ramps on both sides of the road.

 

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South Florida man alleges undercover detective assaulted him during traffic stop

Abraham Sanchez said he was driving just fine on his way home from a morning doctor’s appointment when he was pulled over by an undercover drug detective in an unmarked vehicle.

“I said, ‘What seems to be the problem?'” Sanchez said he asked Hollywood police Detective Sergio Lopez. “He started laughing and said, ‘What? Are you asking me?’ I said, ‘Yeah. Why are you stopping me?”

Sanchez said the veteran detective, wearing plainclothes with a badge dangling from his neck, began yelling at him. Lopez wrote in his report that Sanchez was driving dangerously on Park Road when he pulled him over.

“It appeared, due to my training and experience, that defendant Sanchez could be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol,” Lopez wrote.

Lopez also claimed that after he pulled Sanchez over, he observed him “place something in his mouth that he removed from a clear plastic bag” and claimed Sanchez began yelling obscenities at him. He also said Sanchez refused to give hand over his driver’s license and registration.

Sanchez, who said he had never been arrested in his life and doesn’t abuse drugs or alcohol, told Local 10 News that none of those things alleged by Lopez actually happened. He said it was Lopez who was irate, prompting him to turn on his cellphone video shortly after he was pulled over.

“He started yelling. He was in a rage already. I don’t know what happened,” Sanchez said. “I got very scared. I turned on my cellphone camera.”

On the video, Sanchez is indeed calm, narrating each of his actions as he slowly gets out of the car. Sanchez’s driver’s license and what appears to be his registration are clearly in the detective’s hand.

“This officer has stopped me and I’m gathering my things just to get out of the car,” Sanchez says in the video.

Once out of the car, Lopez, who is silent during most of the video, wrenches the camera from his hand. Sanchez said the detective struck him in the face with the camera as he snatched it.

“You’re smashing my property,” Sanchez says in the video. “Still recording. Still recording.”

After Lopez puts the phone down and briefly gets into his vehicle, Sanchez picks up the camera again. Lopez approaches again, this time with handcuffs.

“This is still recording,” Sanchez says in the video. “This person is very upset, and he’s going to handcuff me for no reason.”

As he’s being detained, Sanchez, who said he doesn’t drink or do drugs, loudly yells for help.

“Why are you doing this?” Sanchez asks, getting no reply.

He then yells for help several more times before the video ends.

In his account of what occurred, Lopez claimed that he took Sanchez’s phone and “advised him that, for my safety and his, I was placing him in handcuffs.”

The video contradicts that account, as Lopez provides no explanation. Lopez also claims that Sanchez “refused to place his hand behind his back and began pushing and pulling away from me while yelling obscenities.”

Again, the video contradicts the detective’s account. Sanchez does not yell any obscenities while being handcuffed, only for help. The video also offers no indication that there was a physical struggle of any kind, as Sanchez appears to comply with the officer other than screaming for help.

“It was very, very scary,” Sanchez said. “I felt threatened. I felt afraid. I’ve never been involved in a situation like this.”

He said his first thought was to call for the police.

“And I think, ‘Wait a minute. It’s the police who are assaulting me,'” Sanchez said. “So I was helpless.”  

Sanchez said that when he was taken to jail, he still had no idea why he was being arrested. He would later learn the charges were disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

After being released from jail, Sanchez got another rude surprise. When he picked up his truck from the tow yard, he saw that the entire dashboard had been destroyed.

Sanchez hired attorney Jessica Mishali to represent him. The state attorney’s office dropped the charges against him.

“A drug detective who works undercover pulling my client over for what he alleges is a traffic stop is a sham,” Mishali said. “He then searched my client illegally,  searched his vehicle illegally, and then went so far as to actually damage his property, to break apart his dashboard in a fit looking for drugs that weren’t there.”

She believes Sanchez, a Panama-born U.S. citizen, was misidentified as a drug suspect.

“I think there’s no question the police department owes him for damage to his vehicle, having to bond out, having to pay for his car and pay for my legal fees … for crimes he never committed,” Mishali said.

Sanchez complained to internal affairs shortly after the January arrest, but he said investigators never followed up on his complaint despite several phone calls. When Local 10 contacted the Hollywood Police Department, spokeswoman Miranda Grossman wrote in an email that his complaint was related to missing property that had been returned. She said the investigation was closed for that reason.

“From what I can see, Mr. Sanchez was satisfied with the outcome,” Grossman wrote.

Sanchez said that explanation is ridiculous since he wanted the traffic stop investigated, including viewing of his video, as well as compensation for his destroyed dashboard.

When Local 10 shared the video with Grossman, she wrote that, in light of the new information, the internal affairs investigation has been reopened.

“Internal Affairs will be inviting Mr. Sanchez in to further discuss the matter,” Grossman wrote.

As of air time, Sanchez said that invitation had yet to be extended.

Hollywood police records reveal that Lopez has been the subject of nine internal affairs cases in the past, with allegations of excessive force, harassment and abuse of authority, but he was cleared in all cases.

A request for an interview with Lopez was declined by the Hollywood Police Department, which is now staying mum on the case since it has been reopened.

Sanchez said he just wants a complete investigation and hopes no one else is treated that way by an officer of the law again.

“Not a single law-abiding citizen should go through this,” he said.

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South Florida man alleges undercover detective assaulted him during traffic stop

Abraham Sanchez said he was driving just fine on his way home from a morning doctor’s appointment when he was pulled over by an undercover drug detective in an unmarked vehicle.

“I said, ‘What seems to be the problem?'” Sanchez said he asked Hollywood police Detective Sergio Lopez. “He started laughing and said, ‘What? Are you asking me?’ I said, ‘Yeah. Why are you stopping me?”

Sanchez said the veteran detective, wearing plainclothes with a badge dangling from his neck, began yelling at him. Lopez wrote in his report that Sanchez was driving dangerously on Park Road when he pulled him over.

“It appeared, due to my training and experience, that defendant Sanchez could be under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol,” Lopez wrote.

Lopez also claimed that after he pulled Sanchez over, he observed him “place something in his mouth that he removed from a clear plastic bag” and claimed Sanchez began yelling obscenities at him. He also said Sanchez refused to give hand over his driver’s license and registration.

Sanchez, who said he had never been arrested in his life and doesn’t abuse drugs or alcohol, told Local 10 News that none of those things alleged by Lopez actually happened. He said it was Lopez who was irate, prompting him to turn on his cellphone video shortly after he was pulled over.

“He started yelling. He was in a rage already. I don’t know what happened,” Sanchez said. “I got very scared. I turned on my cellphone camera.”

On the video, Sanchez is indeed calm, narrating each of his actions as he slowly gets out of the car. Sanchez’s driver’s license and what appears to be his registration are clearly in the detective’s hand.

“This officer has stopped me and I’m gathering my things just to get out of the car,” Sanchez says in the video.

Once out of the car, Lopez, who is silent during most of the video, wrenches the camera from his hand. Sanchez said the detective struck him in the face with the camera as he snatched it.

“You’re smashing my property,” Sanchez says in the video. “Still recording. Still recording.”

After Lopez puts the phone down and briefly gets into his vehicle, Sanchez picks up the camera again. Lopez approaches again, this time with handcuffs.

“This is still recording,” Sanchez says in the video. “This person is very upset, and he’s going to handcuff me for no reason.”

As he’s being detained, Sanchez, who said he doesn’t drink or do drugs, loudly yells for help.

“Why are you doing this?” Sanchez asks, getting no reply.

He then yells for help several more times before the video ends.

In his account of what occurred, Lopez claimed that he took Sanchez’s phone and “advised him that, for my safety and his, I was placing him in handcuffs.”

The video contradicts that account, as Lopez provides no explanation. Lopez also claims that Sanchez “refused to place his hand behind his back and began pushing and pulling away from me while yelling obscenities.”

Again, the video contradicts the detective’s account. Sanchez does not yell any obscenities while being handcuffed, only for help. The video also offers no indication that there was a physical struggle of any kind, as Sanchez appears to comply with the officer other than screaming for help.

“It was very, very scary,” Sanchez said. “I felt threatened. I felt afraid. I’ve never been involved in a situation like this.”

He said his first thought was to call for the police.

“And I think, ‘Wait a minute. It’s the police who are assaulting me,'” Sanchez said. “So I was helpless.”  

Sanchez said that when he was taken to jail, he still had no idea why he was being arrested. He would later learn the charges were disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.

After being released from jail, Sanchez got another rude surprise. When he picked up his truck from the tow yard, he saw that the entire dashboard had been destroyed.

Sanchez hired attorney Jessica Mishali to represent him. The state attorney’s office dropped the charges against him.

“A drug detective who works undercover pulling my client over for what he alleges is a traffic stop is a sham,” Mishali said. “He then searched my client illegally,  searched his vehicle illegally, and then went so far as to actually damage his property, to break apart his dashboard in a fit looking for drugs that weren’t there.”

She believes Sanchez, a Panama-born U.S. citizen, was misidentified as a drug suspect.

“I think there’s no question the police department owes him for damage to his vehicle, having to bond out, having to pay for his car and pay for my legal fees … for crimes he never committed,” Mishali said.

Sanchez complained to internal affairs shortly after the January arrest, but he said investigators never followed up on his complaint despite several phone calls. When Local 10 contacted the Hollywood Police Department, spokeswoman Miranda Grossman wrote in an email that his complaint was related to missing property that had been returned. She said the investigation was closed for that reason.

“From what I can see, Mr. Sanchez was satisfied with the outcome,” Grossman wrote.

Sanchez said that explanation is ridiculous since he wanted the traffic stop investigated, including viewing of his video, as well as compensation for his destroyed dashboard.

When Local 10 shared the video with Grossman, she wrote that, in light of the new information, the internal affairs investigation has been reopened.

“Internal Affairs will be inviting Mr. Sanchez in to further discuss the matter,” Grossman wrote.

As of air time, Sanchez said that invitation had yet to be extended.

Hollywood police records reveal that Lopez has been the subject of nine internal affairs cases in the past, with allegations of excessive force, harassment and abuse of authority, but he was cleared in all cases.

A request for an interview with Lopez was declined by the Hollywood Police Department, which is now staying mum on the case since it has been reopened.

Sanchez said he just wants a complete investigation and hopes no one else is treated that way by an officer of the law again.

“Not a single law-abiding citizen should go through this,” he said.

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Are private funeral procession escorts putting drivers in danger?

They wear uniforms and direct traffic. They even have wailing sirens and flashing lights, but some escorts directing traffic at funeral processions are not police officers.

They’re security guards who work for private firms.

“The difference between the two is because the police officers are the law, and the private firms must abide by the law,” Wright & Young Funeral Home owner Terry Wright said. 

Wright said he has used private companies, but after several accidents, he now prefers to hire sworn officers as police are required to take hours of training just to be motormen and even more to be escort-certified for events such as funeral processions.

“You’re looking at a difference between a company that hires maybe a security or some are not even security guards, versus a policeman that’s trained to deal with traffic and enter those intersections safely,” Miami police Lt. John Carpenter said.

Carpenter said training is key to keeping everyone on the road safe.

In most cases, funeral processions have the right of way, but only police have the authority to direct them through a red light.

He said only police can bring a procession through a red light. Private escorts don’t have that right.

Florida law states that security officers are only authorized to use amber or purple lights on their vehicles.

The Department of Consumer Affairs said anyone can file a complaint regarding a security company online through its website.

Local 10 News found escorts using sirens and lights to force a procession through red lights, a practice that stopped and confused some oncoming drivers.

Nicolas Ayala works at the corner of Opa-Locka Boulevard and Northwest 7th Avenue and said he sees it all the time.

“It’s a little bit confusing because they stop, basically, all the traffic, so people actually don’t know what to do, whether to stop, pull forward,” he said.

There’s no way to know how many accidents happen in South Florida during funeral processions because police said they don’t have any way to track them, but police sources told Local 10 News that accidents do happen.

A crash report from Fort Lauderdale in January showed that one motorcycle escort had to go to the hospital after a driver cut him off during a funeral procession.

State guidelines for security companies also prohibit the use of symbols or uniforms that make them look like law enforcement.

An example is the use of five-point star badges, which are reserved for sheriff’s offices.

As for those red lights and sirens, they’re not supposed to be using those, either. 

“When you start using sirens and horns, it becomes an issue of whether you’re impersonating a police officer,” Carpenter said. 

Local 10 News learned a company called Federal Security Services, which is owned by the same person who runs Grace Funeral Home in northwest Miami-Dade County, may be using practices that are not safe. 

An employee at the funeral home declined to comment on camera about the practices, but told Local 10 News that sirens are used by their security guards for the safety of the procession. 

Wright said he believes the safest thing is for everyone to follow the rules. 

“People are in a hurry here to get where they’re going,” he said. “So they don’t respect services. They don’t respect anything.” 

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