Thursday, July 19, 2012
Carmel on the Case: Party Patrol
A police officer has been disciplined by his department after he used his take-home car to block a city street for a toddler's birthday party. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero has this special assignment report: "Party Patrol."
WSVN -- At first glance, it could look like trouble in the neighborhood.
A Surfside squad car and yellow crime scene tape block a city street.
But a closer look at these pictures reveal not a crime scene but a party scene. There's a tent, balloons, even kids playing on a bounce house slide.
And the home of this birthday bash isn't even in the town of Surfside. It's in Hollywood.
The setup raised at least one set of eyebrows.
Resident: "I think that was my first thought process: Why are they allowed to do that?"
This Hollywood resident, who asked we conceal her identity, was driving through the neighborhood with her family in May, when they came across the police roadblock.
Resident: "What if there's an emergency on that road? What if an ambulance has to come down that road? You can take it several different directions, in terms of why it's wrong."
She says she was so concerned about the way an officer chose to block the street, she started snapping pictures.
Resident: "I mean, I think when they go out, and park their police car and start wrapping crime tape around, they have to know that's not right."
The Surfside Police Department agreed and punished Officer Micah Smith for misuse of his take-home vehicle and for the use of the crime scene tape for his 3-year-old's birthday party.
Sergeant Jay Matelis, Surfside Police Department: "He's a good person, he's a good officer, and he is very apologetic. However, he has been reprimanded and his take-home car privilege has been suspended."
This is just the latest in a string of controversies surrounding South Florida officers' improper use of taxpayer-funded cars. And the backlash has been fast and furious.
Trooper: "He's well over 120, and he's not stopping."
It started last October, when a state trooper made national news after she pulled over, and pulled a gun on, an off-duty, speeding Miami officer.
There's the Miami Beach cop caught on camera speeding on the beach in his police car.
And in a head-scratching move, there was the Miami-Dade officer with mattresses strapped to the top of her patrol car.
For average citizens like the one in Hollywood, it's all about those who choose to serve and protect playing by the same rules as everyone else.
Resident: "The first thing that went through my mind was, Could I block my street off to have a birthday party for my child?"
Carmel Cafiero, Investigative Reporter: "As it turns out, she could have. The officer did have a permit to block the street, but he got in trouble with his department because he used his squad car and police tape, which neighbors say made the area look like a crime scene."
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