When Miami Beach cop Derick Kuilan ditched his police ATV for some drinks at The Clevelander, his superiors were none the wiser (although maybe they should have been). As a result, Kuilan drunkenly jumped back on his ride with a bride-to-be and nearly killed a couple of beachgoers.
Now cops are close to implementing a high-tech system that could prevent incidents like that July 3, 2011 crash. In an interview with Riptide, Miami Beach Police Chief Ray Martinez said the city had reached an agreement with the police union to activate GPS trackers already installed in cops' squad cars.
"Just the fact that [the GPS tracker] is there, and that the officers know that it's there, has changed behavior for the positive," Martinez said.
Last month, Riptide revealed the expensive stand-off between the City of Miami Beach and the Fraternal Order of Police over the use of GPS trackers (called AVLs, or "automated vehicle locators").
The technology, which cost over $500,000 to install on more than 350 city vehicles, had yet to be activated in police patrol cars because of cops' concern that their home addresses could wind up in the hands of public-records-savvy criminals.
Martinez said an agreement has been reached with the union, and he expects to sign the deal this week or the next.
Under the deal, Miami Beach police officers' cars locations will be recorded 24/7. However, GPS data from within a three-mile radius of a cop's house will be exempt from public record requests.
In other words, criminals would have to scour -- if our high school math serves us right -- more than 28 square miles to enact cold-blooded revenge upon the officer who put them away.
Deputy Chief Mark Overton said the agreement respects officers' safety concerns while letting their superiors know their whereabouts.
"We want to make sure that the officers' home addresses, which are exempt [from public records by state statute], were protected," he said. "Most cities' officers have the capability to turn them off [when they go home at night]. Ours can't. That shows we are serious about holding our people to account."
Police spokesman Bobby Hernandez said the GPS system is sophisticated enough to determine when a cop car is speeding.
"We don't even have to wait for a complaint," he says. "The system actually emails us when [an officer] is going X miles over the limit, wherever he is.
Let's say you're doing 80 in a 55. We're going to find out about it and you're going to have to explain why you were going 80 miles per hour."
"It's just another way to be able to verify... that they are doing the right thing, and if they're not, that allows us to be able to hold them to account," said Overton. "It's part of the bigger picture."
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And after incidents like Kuilan's drunken ATV escapade, that big picture is in need of some retouching, admitted Martinez.
"Going back to July 3rd, as tragic as that incident was, it really presented an opportunity for us to change as an organization," he said. "Because it was such a big incident, we have since been able to come in and do a lot of these changes in policy and technology -- things that in the past would have been very difficult to implement (otherwise)."
"We can't change July 3rd," he said. "I wish I could erase it from the history books. But we can't. But we have to be in a position to seize the opportunities that it presented us."