Prisoners and Politics

Following last week's announcement, attention in and around the jail has concentrated on Manning instead of Vidal. "On one hand, I guess I want to commend the manager because at least the task force dilutes the director's power," comments John Rivera, president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association (PBA). "On the other hand, if he knows he's got a problem, why isn't he taking the steps necessary to solve that problem by removing Manning?

"Somebody downtown has got to do something," Rivera continues. "We have got to stop selecting directors based on their race and find qualified people instead. Now, I'm not saying that there aren't qualified blacks -- I'm sure there are -- but it seems to me that finding the most qualified person has not been the county's main requirement."

Two weeks ago the PBA, which represents correctional officers, published the results of a survey of the department's command staff, which includes approximately 80 individuals holding the rank of lieutenant or higher. Of those, 56 are represented by the PBA, and 31 responded to the survey.

The results were not flattering for Manning, as 94 percent said they do not have confidence in Manning's ability; 90 percent said they do not believe he understands the problems facing the department, and 90 percent rated the morale among the command staff as poor.

The numbers are significant, Rivera argues, because Manning's supporters -- if there are any -- evidently could not muster the enthusiasm to fill out the questionnaire. The anonymous survey also allowed for written comments, which the PBA published in a report distributed to county commissioners, Penelas, Vidal, and Manning.

"The selection of Donald Manning to the position of director of the Dade County Department of Corrections reeks of political cronyism and constitutes an extremely poor management decision by the county manager that must be corrected as soon as possible," one of the respondents stated.

"I feel the department is operating on gas fumes," another wrote. "Mr. Manning does not care about us or the department. He only cares about his 'director' title. It is extremely unfortunate that the power brokers from downtown continue to screw our department over. In most large police departments, the director or police chief is usually someone who worked their way up through the ranks. If you look at other public safety departments in Dade County, they have chosen qualified staff from within. Our department never has. Over recent years, the Miami Police Department went through several police chiefs. Once they selected an African-American police chief, they continued to replace him with another male African-American police chief. They finally realized that what was most important was to have a qualified police chief selected based on his/her merit, experience, leadership abilities, and not on his race, ethnic background, or gender. The selection of a department director for our department is a critical decision that should not be taken lightly. As you know, our department has an annual budget of over $176 million. The taxpayers of Dade County deserve better than this."

Added another member of the command staff: "The department is on the verge of collapse. There is total anarchy and no respect for authority. We have had a succession of directors who have been totally unqualified to manage the department."

Vidal said last week he hadn't read the PBA survey.
Why should he? He knew exactly what he was getting with Manning. It just didn't bother him until his own career was on the line.

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