TAMARAC (CBSMiami) – Tamarac City Commissioner Mike Gelin wants law enforcement officers and members of his community to have a deeper understanding of each other.
“We’re gonna understand the fear, the anxiety, the stress, the trauma that these police officers have when they encounter a situation and they need to walk away understanding how we feel when we encounter them,” Gelin told CBS 4’s Carey Codd.
That’s why he’s hosting a “Cops and Community Forum” at the Tamarac Community Center at 6 p.m. on Thursday night.
Gelin speaks on this issue from personal experience.
Last fall, he created controversy by publicly blasting Broward Sheriff’s Deputy Joshua Gallardo, who arrested Gelin years earlier. Gallardo attended a Tamarac City Commission meeting in September where he received a Deputy of the Month award for arresting an international murder suspect.
“You probably don’t remember me but you’re the police officer who falsely arrested me 4 years ago,” Gelin told the officer during the meeting. “You lied on a police report. I believe you’re a rogue police officer, you’re a bad police officer and you don’t deserve to be here.”
Gelin’s comments made headlines around the country. Gallardo arrested Gelin in 2015 for resisting arrest without violence. Gelin said he was recording a crime scene when BSO deputies asked him to stop recording and move back. Gelin pushed the issue and deputies say he didn’t follow their commands. Gelin calls it a false arrest.
“He gave me a command and I followed the command,” Gelin said. “He asked me to leave and I left.”
Prosecutors did not pursue the charges. Gelin admits he should not have embarrassed the deputy at the city meeting.
“For that, I regret,” he said.
But Gelin said he’s pleased that a conversation is growing out of the controversy. Gelin said since his comments he’s heard similar stories from people from all races and orientations.
“Since the incident I had I’ve heard from people of all races, people from the LGBT community, people from all walks of life,” he said. “It’s a shared experience that a lot of people have so since it was brought to the light let’s do something with this energy, with this discussion.”
Gelin said he wants to focus on community policing and finding ways to build trust between the community and law enforcement. At the event he said there will be a panel discussion with high-ranking police officers from several South Florida law enforcement agencies, experts and industry leaders. Gelin said attendees will watch videos showing interaction with law enforcement from different perspectives and will also be able to share their stories.
One agency that won’t participate is BSO. Gelin said he asked BSO to participate in the meeting but they declined. A BSO spokesperson said the event is not sanctioned by the city and they reviewed the materials that Gelin plans to use and they felt the event might be divisive. BSO said they would prefer to present a training session on a topic like use of force that might foster more education and understanding for the community.
Gelin said he wants to see BSO do more outreach in terms of community policing in Tamarac and, overall, he said most people in the city appear to have a “good” relationship with BSO.
Neal Glassman was the commander of BSO’s Tamarac district for more than 6 years. He retired at the rank of Captain last summer. Glassman said he believes Tamarac residents have a lot of respect for BSO.
“My experience in my 6 and a half years is a great relationship with the community,” Glassman said.
Glassman said crime is down in the city and BSO deputies spend time meeting with people from all communities.
“There needs to always be a dialogue between the community and law enforcement,” Glassman said.
Gelin said this issue stretches far beyond Tamarac but said it’s not a “black and white issue.” He’s hoping this is just the first in a series of these events.
“We also need to have a serious conversation about the challenges that we face and then how do we overcome those challenges,” Gelin said.
Gelin said he’s also focused on studying whether Tamarac should end its contract with BSO and create its own police agency. Gelin said the city’s contract with BSO ends at the end of the year.