Memorial Day is here again, Miami, leaving beach residents and visitors alike wondering what the city has planned.
According to Miami Beach police chief Ray Martinez, the holiday weekend will look a lot like it did last year: traffic loops, cops scanning license plates along the bridges, and regular DUI stops.
It might sound like a helluva hassle, but there are several recent reminders of what can go wrong on the craziest weekend of the year, from zombie-attack victim Ronald Poppo's video release to the lawsuit Raymond Herisse's family announced it was filing earlier this week.
Last Memorial Day was Martinez's first in charge, and the first since the disastrous 2011 shootout in which cops opened fire on Herisse's car, killing him and wounding seven others, including three cops and four bystanders.
(Herisse was later identified as a suspect in a 2010 attempted robbery in Boynton Beach. Police say a handgun was found hidden in his car after the Memorial Day weekend shooting, although he apparently did not fire it. His death remains under investigation.)
As a response, Martinez introduced a plan including a traffic loop, automated license plate scanning on the Julia Tuttle and MacArthur causeways, and regular DUI checkpoints. At the time, some locals slammed the idea.
"My concerns are the same they've been with the last ten Urban Beach Weekends," said Herb Sosa, head of the Unity Coalition. "I applaud the Beach for trying to come up with ideas, but I still don't see any evidence they can handle this kind of a mass of people."
But things went pretty smoothly last year -- other than "Miami Zombie" Rudy Eugene eating someone's face, of course -- and Martinez feels like his plan and department were both vindicated.
"Since 2001, our guys have gone out there and busted their ass ... working up to 16 hours a day for five days straight," he says. "And then for 11 and a half months we've been criticized ... for not being able to handle Memorial Day, for not being able to handle the crowds, for it being out of control."
"Last year was the first year you saw a significant change in how we approached Memorial Day," Martinez adds. "The feedback from the residents, from the community, from the media, from the public was overwhelming in a positive way."
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"[Critics] thought we were going to be violating peoples' rights, but we didn't," adds deputy chief Mark Overton. "You can't please everybody. So what we did is we stuck to our guns and it was very, very successful. That's a model for us now to continue and that's what we plan on doing this year."
Let's hope the plan works as well this time around, and no one is mauled or mowed down by bullets.