Monday, April 30, 2012
Help Me Howard: Police Damage
It's a job very few people could do, chasing criminals in the dark. Police have to do it and sometimes they break or destroy property while doing their job. But do they have to pay for the damage they do to your property? It's a question one man had for Help me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
WSVN -- When someone tried to steal Tim Robert's car from his front yard, he had a solution.
Tim Roberts: "I had a fence company come out, put up the fence and ever since I put up the fence, I hadnt had any problems."
At night Tim keeps the gates locked. Then a year ago, at 5 a.m. in the morning he heard a noise outside.
Tim Roberts: "So I took a quick peek out my window and all of a sudden I see individuals standing in my patio with machine guns."
Tim has several surveillance cameras monitoring his house.
Tim Roberts: "Then they go past camera two, which is the front door."
He saw a guy with bolt cutters and several other armed me so he dialed 911.
Tim Roberts: "Thats when they told me they could have some officers in the area and when I looked at the cameras I could see the fatigues, but I never could see if anything said police."
Tim stayed inside and watched the cameras. Not about to walk out in the dark to ask people with guns what they were doing there.
Tim Roberts: "They never rang the doorbell."
The officers left after the sun came up. Tim went outside and discovered how they had gotten onto his property.
Tim Roberts: "They cut here and they cut here, and they unhinged the gate and threw it down."
Tim called the Miami-Dade Police Department to report the busted locks and damage to his fence.
Tim Roberts: "Well sir do you know who did this? And of course I go yeah, the police did it use and I guess they were stunned."
Tim repaired his gate, bought new locks and asked Miami-Dade County to re-imburse him for the $100 he spent to repair the damage. That was one year ago.
Tim Roberts: "I done sent them receipts. I done sent them video and I still haven't got a response."
Tim was in the military for 20 years and has family members in law enforcement.
Tim Roberts: "Trust me I appreciate what law enforcement does. I understand that they have to do a job and thats fine with me."
Tim says he can do without the $100, but now he is irritated that a year has passed and the county has ignored his request that they pay for the damage the officers caused.
Tim Roberts: "Remember the state the local governments to they work for the taxpayers so we are the boss."
But Howard, legally if the police damage a taxpayers property while doing their job do they have to pay for the repairs?
Howard Finkelstein: "The law says that if causing the damage is the only safe and efficient way for the officers to do their job, they are not responsible for the damage they cause. In this case they probably dont have to pay for the busted locks, but they didn't have to unhinge the gate and throw it down so they are liable for that."
When I spoke to Miami-Dades risk management department where they were polite and moved quickly, they told me they handle claims like this on a case by case basis. That they had a problem viewing the tape the way it was formatted for them.
After we got involved their experts cleared it up and even though there was no clear evidence of the officers doing the damage, they told me they weren't going to argue over $100. They sent sent Tim a check
Tim Roberts: "If you dont stand up for yourself, nobody will."
Tim is happy the county finally paid for the damage, just a little disappointed that it took them a year to get it done with a small nudge from that little TV station.
Tim Roberts: "I have Help me Howard on speed dial and I aint playing, when I got a problem I call Help me Howard."
Patrick Fraser: "Its what we are here for. And if you ever have damage from a government agency, dont contact that agency directly. Most have a risk management department, that decides if the city or county is at fault and if you disagree with their conclusion complain to your elected officials.
Searching for a solution thats hidden from you? Need the key to unlock things you dont have a crash a gate to get to us, just call those numbers.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD: