Letters

Robert J. Jensen, chairman
Everglades Community Association
Florida City

Hey, Jerry, Ever Read Any Kafka?
When I read Elise Ackerman's article "Insult to Injury" (June 6), [concerning allegations of excessive force involving the Miami Beach Police Department], it really touched a nerve. Last January 12 I was a typical tourist in Miami out for some fun on a Friday night. A friend and I had a quiet dinner at home and hadn't any plans. I had my rental car for a few more days so why not drive around, I suggested. We drove around SoBe for an hour or so and then decided to go to a disco in South Miami I had heard about. We never made it.

Only a week after three South Beach discos were shut down in highly publicized late-night drug raids, the hysteria continued. Traffic was backed up and crawling on the MacArthur Causeway around 11:00 p.m., and at the very end we were all directed into a "sobriety" checkpoint. As in the incidents the week before, the cops were performing for the media: A national TV tabloid show (A Current Affair) was there wielding cameras.

I was asked for my license and if I had had anything to drink. I naively said that my friend and I had drunk one beer with dinner four hours earlier. The cop said to get out of the car. I was run through several checkpoint gymnastics with a crowd watching me and a camera crew following me around. After a half-hour of this circus, they had me sit down. Meanwhile several cops conducted on-camera interviews. I was asked to give a breath test. Now I was really getting scared. My friend was back in the car and couldn't see much or hear anything.

The TV crew lowered the sound boom over me and, with the light of the camera in my face, I blew. The cops covered the display panel so that neither I nor the cameras could see that I blew 0-0-0, the lowest possible reading. (I learned this later.) I was plenty sober. One beer four hours earlier hadn't affected me at all.

The camera crew tried to follow me into the trailer's bathroom while I gave a urine sample, but I objected. The cops had a good laugh.

I was arrested by the Metro-Dade Police Department for being high on drugs and spent three days in jail. Conditions were deplorable. I never use drugs. Never. I am a very light drinker and would never drink and drive. The fact that I was being accused of this was highly insulting. No one who knew me could believe it. My urine test showed that no drugs were in my system.

The police report (in very bad English) states how I was stumbling around and reeked of alcohol, and a toxicologist from the University of Miami remarks that I displayed, apparently, all the signs of someone on drugs.

I protested my innocence to no avail. It was just a big joke to the cops. I strongly believe that the arresting officer knew I was not impaired. He abused his power in arresting me.

I'll never really know why I was arrested. I lived in South America last year and saw how afraid the people were of the police and witnessed disgraceful abuses of power. It could never happen in my country, I said. I was wrong.

I have a real fear of the police in Dade County and how they treat tourists. Finally my case was dismissed, but this was only after four months of pain and suffering. Why does this happen? How can we stop it? Are cops any better than the criminals they are paid by us to arrest?

Jerry Gottlick
Baltimore, Maryland

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