Letters from the Issue of September 27, 2007
Where's the meat?: Next time you chase a "provocative" piece of investigative journalism, make sure (a) there actually is a story and (b) you assign it to someone other than a wide-eyed cub reporter such as Tamara Lush.
As someone with a mild disdain for the behavior of this city's police force and who is certainly no fan of Chief Timoney's prickly persona, I was intrigued by the potential of an article dubbing him "America's Worst Cop" (September 20).
Instead I was bombarded with inane travel expense figures the Evil Timoney racked up at taxpayer expense. The author took great pains to paint Timoney like he was the CEO of Tyco squandering billions like some crazed jet setter. Do you think cities like L.A., New York, and Boston send their top cops to stay in Motel 6? Not exactly the stuff of Woodward and Bernstein.
But when it comes time to correlate Timoney's excessive travel habits with Miami's crime problems, the article strains to yield fruit.
The most preposterous assumption was that if Timoney had been in town for the shooting of two men at a bus stop on Flagler Street, it might never have happened.
Are we to believe Timoney's duties as police chief require him to have stood guard at that particular bus stop on that particular night? What difference would it have made?
The fact that has obviously eluded this green reporter is that misappropriation of funds among government functionaries, though unethical, is such a well-documented transgression that it hardly qualifies as a scandal. What's more, the figures provided seemed paltry by any standards. A $50 to $80 per diem is laughable for a man in his position.
I'm all for accountability when it comes to my city's police force, but if telling me that the police chief is arrogant, ambitious, accepts gifts (see: Lexus), and takes more city-sponsored trips than he ought to is supposed to outrage me and shake me to my core, forgive me for not breaking a sweat.
"The number of violent deaths in the city increased from 56 in 2005 to a jaw-dropping 79 in 2006," wrote Lush. An increase in 23 deaths in a city of 3.5 million over the course of a year is hardly "jaw-dropping." Show me increases in crime across the board if you want to argue your case.
If you want corruption, have this naive reporter plunder the news archives of city cops' behavior in the Seventies and Eighties. Stuff like that sells papers. If you want to sell me a scandal, make sure there's meat on that bone.
Watch closely, Miami: Broward County is considering making its sheriff not an elected position, but an appointed one. They had a bad apple and now the politicians want control over what they consider an embarrassing situation. Pay attention, folks — this is a power grab and a method of taking democracy away from the people. When common folk elect their dogcatcher, water-sewer director, or whomever, that is a fundamental of a free society.
If Miami had a police chief subject to recall and re-election, the city wouldn't be having the police problems mentioned in Tamara Lush's September 20 article, "America's Worst Cop." A fringe benefit for Miami residents would be millions of dollars saved in retirement packages if they had free choice to get rid of their latest bum-of-the-month-club member every four years. "Subject to recall" might be the system of checks and balances needed to keep a good cop in the chief's position.
Save the Cats!
Ban ownership: I can't understand why our society tolerates oddities like Alan Rigerman and their penchant for keeping wild animals in their homes, which was the topic of Calvin Godfrey's September 13 story, "Cat People." It's bad enough they are kept in tiny cages, even though their instincts would have them roam over many miles in a single day. Adding insult to injury is the macho attitude Rigerman exhibits. It's time to rewrite the laws that allow people to keep wild animals as pets. We don't need permits and we certainly don't need grandfathering. Can we just do the obvious and outlaw this practice altogether?
Call the authorities: Calvin Godfrey watched an animal being dragged by the throat and slammed to the ground, and instead of placing an emergency call to humane authorities, he wrote a puff piece about Alan Rigerman and his "pet" exotic cats?
Rigerman and his assistant, Anthony Zitnick, consider thick chains, chokeholds, and declawing to be acceptable ways of "controlling" big cats. Why is your paper praising these monsters?
The Rigerman family's "hobby" appears to be violating half a dozen state and federal anti-cruelty laws. Authorities should step in without delay.
Lisa Wathne, captive exotic animals specialist, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals
Do the math: As someone who has seen the inside of exotic pet ownership for the past 15 years, I can attest to the fact that Calvin Godfrey portrayed the entire industry in his eloquent exposé. Great job!
Incidents in the United States since 1990 involving captive exotic cats have resulted in the deaths of 19 people — 15 adults and four children — as well as the mauling of 171 adults and children, 134 escapes, and the killing of 79 big cats. These figures represent only the headlines that Big Cat Rescue has been able to track. Because there is no reporting agency that keeps such records, the actual numbers are certainly much higher.
The United States represents less than five percent of the global population, but through 2006, 79 percent of all captive cat incidents occurred in this country. Florida represents less than six percent of the U.S. population, while 11 percent of all U.S. incidents occur in the state. Florida boasts the most comprehensive regulations allowing private ownership of exotic cats, while ranking first in big cat killings, maulings, and escapes.
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