On Friday night, December 13, Miami-Dade County Commissioner Dorrin Rolle pulled his Mercedes-Benz sedan into the carport of his residence in one of Liberty City's more middle-class sections -- the corner of NW 90th Street and 10th Avenue.
As he left his car, according to Rolle and Miami-Dade County Police reports, the commissioner was accosted by two black men, one of them holding a silver revolver in a threatening manner. When he saw the gun, the portly commissioner, who has an affinity for snakeskin cowboy boots, screamed rather shrilly. This apparently scared off the would-be robbers, but two nights later, Rolle's daughter Judith found the driver-side window of her Lexus sport-utility vehicle shattered, and her Coach leather pocketbook -- which she'd forgotten on the driver's seat -- stolen.
"Since I was a boy, I've been able to travel the streets of Liberty City without fear," a melancholy Rolle recollected for New Times recently. "But that all twisted on Friday the 13th. I'm emotionally shaken. My family is emotionally shaken. By the grace of God, nothing happened to us."
Since the two incidents occurred, the brass at the Miami-Dade Police Northside station at 2950 NW 83rd St., which patrols the neighborhood, has assigned on-duty cops to watch over Rolle's house despite some officers' protests. The decision to provide free 24-7 protection has rankled some of Northside's patrolmen, who don't think it's appropriate to use valuable police resources to "reassure" the commish and his family.
"It's an abuse of power for him to have a service the average citizen doesn't have," said a Miami-Dade sergeant, who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "If he wants an on-duty officer to baby-sit his house, then he should have to fork over the cost."
This is not the first time Rolle has been under fire for abusing county police resources for his own benefit. Earlier this year, the county's Commission on Ethics and Public Trust charged that he'd exploited his official position by using county-budgeted money to pay for 43 police officers to work the 9th Annual Bob Marley Caribbean Festival (see "A Man in Fool," New Times, May 23, 2002). That happened on February 9. The expense would otherwise have been paid by the James E. Scott Community Association, an event sponsor, where Rolle just happens to earn $130,000 a year as president and chief executive. His "free cop" abuse cost the county $20,000, while saving JESCA $10,000; it also took 25 on-duty officers (the rest were getting OT) off crime-prevention duty in their own neighborhoods to coddle a reggae concert.
Normally the county commission has use of a sergeant-at-arms, who ferries commissioners to and from special events while also acting as a bodyguard. County Mayor Alex Penelas makes use of another sergeant-at-arms. The police department, however, does not make it a practice to use on-duty officers to watch over elected officials.
A reluctant Rolle spoke about the security detail at the county commission's regular meeting on December 17. He asserted that he did not ask for the police presence in front of his house, but couldn't pass on the opportunity. Apparently Rolle doesn't see the problem in having his own publicly subsidized security detail. "The police department is making sure that my home and my family are safe," Rolle said. "I didn't ask ... but I certainly appreciate it."
Maj. Tyrone White, Northside's commander, did not return several phone calls seeking comment. But through a department spokesman, White vehemently denied the security detail was on duty, even though Rolle confirmed it. "The commander says that there have been several incidents in the commissioner's neighborhood, so the station increased police presence in the area," said spokesman Robert Williams. "But no one is watching the commissioner's house."
That wasn't the case when New Times drove through Rolle's neighborhood on December 19. The only police presence was a Miami-Dade Police patrol car idling across the street from the commissioner's home.
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Inside the squad car, a black female officer with freckles, despite the intense glare from the midafternoon sun, kept a vigilant eye on Rolle's single-story, salmon-colored home, which is separated from the outside world by a dark red wrought-iron fence.
The officer, who did not want to be identified, told New Times that she was indeed assigned to guard the property. And she wasn't thrilled with the assignment either.
"A lot of cops aren't happy about this," she said. "In fact a lot of us are pissed. This is a waste of taxpayer money and county resources. This is a high-crime area where we should be responding to emergencies, not pulling a security detail!"