Angels & Assholes for June 5, 2020

Hi, kids!

It’s time once again to turn a jaundiced eye toward the newsmakers of the day – the winners and losers – who, in my cynical opinion, either contributed to our quality of life, or detracted from it, in some significant way.

Let’s look at who tried to screw us – and who tried to save us – during the week that was:

Angel              Sheriff Michael Chitwood and Sheriff Rick Staly

Once again, the editorial board at the horribly biased Daytona Beach News-Journal donned their police hat, pinned on a gold star, climbed atop their high horse and began pontificating about something they know absolutely nothing about.

This week, in an op/ed entitled, “Policing faces a turning point,” the newspaper’s leadership propped their feet on a mahogany desk and lectured, “They (law enforcement) must step up their screening of potential new officers, amplify their training for existing corps and encourage better relations with minority community leaders who can be powerful allies in the cause of peace. Body-worn and dash cameras must document every encounter between police and the public.”

Clearly, the editorial board hasn’t taken the time to read the plethora of credible studies on the subject of contemporary police/community relations and national use of force statistics, spoken to police officers or interviewed criminologists – choosing instead to talk out of their ass on a difficult, dynamic and multifaceted issue that, so long as human beings are involved, has no absolute answer.

In my view, any substantive discussion of this issue must be based upon facts – not rhetoric, editorial speculation or inflamed emotion.

As a small boy, police officers were my heroes.  They still are.

I spent 31-years in law enforcement, more if you count the six-years I spent as a reservist with the United States Army Military Police Corps – where I was highly trained in the art and science of crowd and riot control – an incredibly fulfilling career that gave me the chance to serve my community in a meaningful way.

So, it bothers me when I see dilettantes in the media condemning my beloved profession (from the comfort and safety of an air-conditioned office) as a means of promoting their social agenda – and selling newspapers. . .

Do you think the Daytona Beach News-Journal knows anything about the selection, preparation and screening of new police officers?  Or what their initial, in-service and advanced training consists of?  Or the effectiveness of body worn cameras in reducing violent encounters?  Or the statistics of police use of deadly force in the United States?

I don’t either.

Yet, they have the gall to paint all agencies and officers with the same foul brush – even though they have never effected an arrest, investigated a crime, been shot at, faced down an unruly crowd or placed their personal safety in danger to defend something greater than their own self-interests.

During times of crisis – especially when the controversy surrounds an abhorrent act of a few criminals with a badge who ignored their sacred obligation to the oath and ethics of their profession – the media prefers to incite things by indicting the whole of law enforcement, lumping hundreds of thousands of police officers with a handful of bad actors, then condescendingly suggest reforms to a service that is completely foreign to them.

Perhaps therein lies the problem?

Maybe it’s time for newspaper editors to get out of their gilded offices, put on a ballistic vest, and take to the streets alongside police officers who stand the line between order and chaos – not just a one-time novelty tour to get some dust on the wingtips and say “I’ve been out there” – but a sustained dive into the dangerous realities law enforcement officers face daily.

The death of George Floyd in Minneapolis was an atrocity – the evil act of a depraved and callous mind that employed a reckless and prohibited technique that resulted in the cruel death of Mr. Floyd.

An act that rightfully outraged the conscience of a nation – and galvanized all of us in the pursuit of justice.

The peaceful protests that sought to memorialize George Floyd spoke to our best instincts – the righteous exercise of our first amendment right to free expression and peaceful assembly in the finest traditions of our national character.

Then, inexplicably, these angry yet orderly expressions of grief that honored Mr. Floyd’s life and condemned the manner of his death were hijacked by lawless mobs of anarchists, looters, agent provocateurs and criminal opportunists.

Death and the wholesale destruction of great American cities quickly ensued.

And let us not forget the horrifying number of police officers who have been seriously injured and killed in the line of duty over the past 10-days – and the countless citizens who were indiscriminately set upon, beaten and maimed by criminal mobs – but you won’t read about those acts of violence in the media, because it doesn’t fit the “vilify the cops” narrative. . .

In my view, no substantive discussion between police and the community can begin until the smoke clears and order is restored.

Fortunately, there is also cause for hope.

I would like to commend the herculean efforts of Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood and Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly for their exhaustive work to ensure public safety and protect first amendment rights to free expression and assembly – while standing in unison with peaceful protesters to harshly condemn the abominable actions that resulted in the death of George Floyd.

Both of these veteran law enforcement professionals have made clear that the actions of the former Minneapolis police officers responsible for George Floyd’s death “…are inconsistent with the best practices of today’s professional law enforcement officers.”

In a recent opinion piece in the News-Journal, Sheriff Chitwood boldly acknowledged the historic problem of racism in our society – while supporting the good work of his deputies:

“What I know in my heart is that the vast majority of law enforcement officers – just like the majority of the American people – believe in equality, fairness and sanctity of life. I can’t look into the heart of every person who wears a uniform, but I can look at their actions. We’re not perfect, and the nature of our job puts us in a position to have our actions scrutinized, our motivations questioned, our character attacked. We have seen plenty of that. But I believe by and large, the members of the Volusia Sheriff’s Office believe in equality and safety for every person, including those who are under arrest.”

I agree.

In my view, today’s law enforcement officers are the best trained, best equipped and best led police force in the world – men and women of extraordinary courage and skill who place themselves in harm’s way again-and-again – working diligently to protect and serve diverse communities across this great nation for little, if any, thanks or recognition.

Men and women, husbands and wives, sons and daughters, fathers and mothers – human beings – of the community and for the community they serve.

It seems no matter how much law enforcement officers sing and line dance like trained bears on social media – or engage in the newest trend of police executives kneeling before riotous mobs while anarchist’s scream “On your knees, pig!” – they can never seem to “humanize” themselves in the eyes of their detractors. . .

I disagree with the emerging tactic across the nation of proud police officers, who have acquitted themselves with honor and integrity in the face of withering provocation, being directed to prostrate themselves before aggressive mobs by their clearly overwhelmed command staff.

However, I strongly support the idea of standing tall, like men and women of courage, alongside protesters – walking shoulder-to-shoulder in solidarity with those committed to bringing positive change and social justice.

In many ways, current officers are paying for the sins of generations who came before – a predominantly white male dominated service, often ill equipped mentally and physically, poorly trained, under supervised, uneducated and unwilling to change a hardened ‘us vs. them’ mentality.

During my long career, I was fortunate to serve with some true-servant leaders who worked hard in collaboration with the community to bring positive change – and I was proud of my agency’s progress in helping change its complexion and culture to better represent the diverse citizenry it served.

When peace and safety are restored, I hope the important discussion of improved police/community relations can move beyond the polarizing notions of politics as we develop a better understanding of the dynamic forces that our protectors face  – and undertake a thorough vetting of the divisive fear, misunderstandings and visceral perceptions on both sides of the badge.

Asshole           Volusia County Council

Hey, guess what y’all?

We got more of those good, “high-paying jobs” coming our way!

Yep.  Time to quit the scullery work at that beachside fleabag – or leave the drudgery of the warehouse – ’cause we’re all gonna be Rocket Scientists, baby!

Just like our political “leadership” on the Volusia County Council!

My ass. . .

Thanks to the always arrogant Councilwoman Deb Denys and her craven ability to put the greed-crazed interests of developers and “economic development” shills above all else, on Tuesday the Volusia County Council unanimously agreed to further endanger our sensitive environment, estuaries and struggling aquifer to accommodate an expedited approval process for aerospace manufacturing concerns with an eye on Southeast Volusia and beyond.

Although there was never a doubt that this dangerous practice of “fast-tracking” industrial permitting wasn’t a foregone conclusion – we were treated to a clearly orchestrated parade of the “Who’s Who” of Volusia County business and industry, all of whom spoke in support – including the usual carnival barkers from the CEO Business Alliance, Daytona Beach Regional Chamber of Commerce, Team Volusia, etc.

Frankly, the group looked eerily like a “host committee” for a Deb Denys fundraiser. . .

Let’s call this charade what it was – another of Ms. Denys poorly camouflaged campaign events choreographed from the dais.

Oh, Councilwoman Heather Post attempted to dig for answers for her worried constituents – but she was quickly bullied and steamrolled by our doddering fool of a County Chair, Ed Kelley (“Move it along, dammit! There’s nothing to see here!”)

Then she was properly educated by the babble of Growth and Resource Management Director Clay Ervin – who serves as the Bureaucratic Bullshit Artist in Residence at the Thomas C. Kelly Administration Building.

My God.

The reason why our elected dullards in DeLand have become the most distrusted “governmental” body in the region is because they no longer work for us – or give two-shits about the wants, needs and dreams of the little people.

In my view, this seething suspicion is the direct result of council members who have developed the unconscionable ability to openly lie to their constituents – blatantly and with confidence – then arrogantly congratulate their own performance.

For instance, just before the all-important lunch break, Chairman Kelley did exactly what we were promised would not happen as he moved up an agenda item so council members could unanimously appoint Interim County Attorney Mike Dyer to the permanent position.

You read that right.

In January, when the council placed Dyer in the temporary role following a bloodletting in the county attorney’s office – we were promised that the full-time position would only be filled following a transparent nationwide search.

Remember?

At the time, an article in The Daytona Beach News-Journal assured us:

“Councilman Ben Johnson initially shared concern that appointing Dyer as interim might give the impression that, if Dyer is eventually chosen as the permanent county attorney, that the decision was a “foregone conclusion.”

Those concerns were shared by Councilwoman Barbara Girtman, who said as long as they conduct the search with transparency, she didn’t see Dyer’s interim appointment as a problem.

“It will be transparent. It will be discussed publicly,” said Councilwoman Deb Denys.”

Bullshit.

No search.  No discussion.  No transparency.  A foregone conclusion.  Anointed before lunch.

Let’s face it, Mr. Dyer meets the criteria:  His parents went to school with Councilman Ben Johnson. . .

In my view, he also embodies the institutionalized mediocrity and malleability to permit the continued politicization of the county attorney’s office – something infinitely important to the “system.”

Look, I get it.

A national search may have found a more experienced, polished and independent county attorney – but I can assure you it would not have produced anyone who is more deeply entrenched in the old-timey Good ol’ Boy network that perpetuates this ongoing shit show.

I hope everyone will remember this insulting “tell ‘em one thing, do the opposite” political sleight-of-hand at the ballot box this fall. . .

Quote of the Week

“We’ve got some move-in ready buildings that add up to more than 300,000 square feet of space,” said Sharples. “It’s one of the upsides to losing a company like Costa.”

–Dr. Kent Sharples, Chairman of the Volusia CEO Business Alliance, as quoted in The Daytona Beach News-Journal, “Volusia looks to step up recruiting space firms,” Saturday, May 30, 2020

You read that right.  According to Dr. Sharples, vacant buildings are just “one of the upsides” to the loss of a long-time area employer. . .

I wonder what the other positives are?

Unfortunately, I don’t run in those tight local circles that seem to have all the answers – and opportunities.

What I do know is our local “economic development” shills and their parasitic hangers-on use the euphemism “adding to the inventory” to describe the growing number of vacant store fronts in Volusia County as restaurants, small businesses and manufacturing plants continue to die, leaving their empty shells behind.

Here in the real world, most would describe the loss of some 300 jobs at Costa Del Mar  – and the resultant massive vacancies at area business parks – as a true blow to our local economy.

The fact is, there is no “upside” to losing a clean manufacturing operation like Costa Del Mar – unless, of course, some well-heeled insider is looking for cheap investment property. . .

In August 2018, The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported that Dr. Sharples and his wife purchased the former Crane Cams manufacturing plant on Holsonback Drive for a cool $1.4 million.

I’m not suggesting there’s anything wrong with that – except, I wish you and I were privy to the same investment opportunities as the president of a quasi-private “business recruitment” alliance who openly insinuates itself in everything from sales tax increases to lobbying local government for even more growth and sprawl.

(I also wish we could all travel the world, hobnobbing on the public dime like Keith Norden and his “economic development” costermongers over at that “public/private” showboat called Team Volusia, but that’s another screed, for another time. . .)

For the record, Dr. Sharples “…said his personal purchase of the former Crane Cams building was not related to his role with the CEO Business Alliance.”

Well, thank God we cleared that up.

Because it would be one thing to “bring high paying jobs” to Volusia County – and quite another to line your pockets while your doing it, eh?

In my view, that would seem sleazy and wrong and smack of ethical conflict – kind of like many of us felt when they found out a certain segment of insiders knew in advance about the super-secret Amazon fulfillment center in Deltona – while others were kept in the dark. . .

I often wonder if the members of the CEO Business Alliance, and the elected handmaidens some of its members have purchased with massive campaign funds, ever take a hard look around at what their overweening desire for personal enrichment has produced in the City of Daytona Beach and beyond?

Whatever.

Something tells me if Volusia County’s reckless push to attract aerospace manufacturers by neutering and compressing permitting and environmental protections doesn’t pan out – we’re going to have a hell of a lot more “inventory” on our hands for Sharples and the gang to play with.

And Another Thing!

During Tuesday’s Volusia County Council meeting, several concerned community activists representing the Daytona Beach Black Clergy Alliance, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other recognized and respected area leaders stood before our elected officials to very eloquently address some of the most pressing social issues of our time.

Unfortunately, with active protests occurring both locally and nationally, their extremely well-thought and topical presentations fell on deaf ears. . .

In keeping with Chairman Ed Kelley’s royal decree that the exalted members of The Monarchy neither physically acknowledge, nor verbally engage, with the servile subjects who come before them – Old Ed warned the DBBCA representative to direct his words only to him – then cutoff NAACP President Cynthia Slater when her “time was up.”

(How can you tell if someone is actively listening to you?  They constantly interrupt your presentation to remind you of the “rules” of addressing your elected representatives. . .)

The same admonition was given to another speaker who had the impudence to actually cast her gaze upon the illustrious Councilwoman Billie Wheeler, and rightfully take Deb Denys to the woodshed for her astonishingly tone-deaf suggestion to ban non-Volusia County residents from the beach, clearly as a means of controlling young black visitors.

Shameful. 

Of course, the reception was noticeably more warm, jocular and welcoming when many of their campaign contributors and political supporters approached the dais to support Ms. Denys’ pet project, the Commercial Space Industry Opportunity Overlay District.

It was like a weird Old Home Week in the chambers – a palpable familiarity and deference the community activists did not enjoy. . .

As I watched what passed for “public participation” play out – I thought:

If these elected dullards had a modicum of respect for the opinions and suggestions of those community leaders who took their time to come to DeLand and provide substantive input in addressing the seemingly intractable social issues we face, consider how much progress may have been made that morning? 

Had these haughty assholes on the dais of power taken the time to engage in dialog with influential community leaders, how might that discourse have ameliorated the simmering tensions and brought us all a little closer to middle ground?

Instead, the speakers were subjected to the traditional chirping crickets – as our elected officials ignored a valuable opportunity – and Chairman Kelley dithered about time limits and the importance of directing amplified comments to him alone. . .

God help us.

That’s all for me.  Have a great weekend, y’all.

 

 

3 thoughts on “Angels & Assholes for June 5, 2020

  1. As much as I dislike any more building we do need Jobs. Now when the always arrogant Denys loses her seat who is going to talk to the aerospace industry about coming to Volusia as long as they offer at least a thousand new well paying jobs. When Elon Musk announced that he was leaving California, I sent him an email asking him to come to Florida instead of Texas. I’m for building aerospace industries here, being this close to KSC. Jobs are a must in this area and with all the resources available why not Volusia !

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  2. I AGREE STRONGLY with all you have said and all of the goings on sickens me!
    I spent 32 years as a 911 Operator/Police Dispatcher and to listen to anyone who knows nothing about Law Enforcement just assume they know ALL Police Officer’s are badge heavy and or Racist is ignorant. As for ANY Officer out there on the front lines right now taking knee while being called a Racist Pig makes me upset and angry beyond words BECAUSE if you can’t understand how heartbreaking it is for these Officer’s of the Law to watch another person who wears that uniform treat another human being with such contempt you must be blind. I don’t think it is necessary for them to take a knee while being belittled as if they are personally responsible for the actions of a few bad apples. Stand in solidarity yes absolutely no problem.
    I would also like to remind everyone out there that budgets for training of Police and Fire for that matter are ALWAYS the first things cut by most Councils so if you want to bark about Law Enforcement training and the lack there of, STOP cutting what you only see as important when the shit hits the fan!!
    As for our so called County Council I can only say I will be using my right to vote to get them out come November!!

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  3. Dear Mr. Barker,

    You say,

    “Maybe it’s time for newspaper editors to get out of their gilded offices, put on a ballistic vest, and take to the streets alongside police officers who stand the line between order and chaos – not just a one-time novelty tour to get some dust on the wingtips and say “I’ve been out there” – but a sustained dive into the dangerous realities law enforcement officers face daily.”

    I think good journalists do this. At least the ones I know do. Last year’s News-Journal series on opiod deaths in Volusia County was a good example of that.

    Having said that, immersion in a system has never been a requirement for the analysis or criticism of that system. It’s why film critics aren’t required to be film makers–in fact, it’s better that way. The best criticism comes from outside of a system; those inside it aren’t able to be as objective due to their role/membership in that system.

    The invention of the smartphone (or the portable video camera, in the case of Rodney King) has pulled back the curtain on the systemic abuse of citizens by the police in America. What is it about the culture of law enforcement that makes possible everything from a sheriff like Lake County’s notorious Willis McCall to the Buffalo cops who shoved a 75 year-old man–a man allegedly trying to return a helmet to them–to the ground earlier this week, fracturing his skull? Is there a recurring theme here?

    Perhaps in a future column you can shed some light on how these things come to be.

    Sincerely,

    Eric Breitenbach

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