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I have to stop and wonder sometimes at the actions of the Sarasota Police Department. Living in the downtown area of Sarasota, I generally see a different side of the police than what’s on display in the Newtown community. Can I say that I see a “better” side? No, not really, no.
I tend to see the SPD in more of a pawn-like mode in which they respond to calls from high-dollar tenants of high-rise condos who would rather see the homeless arrested and out of their sight than try to formulate a solution to the homeless condition. Ask why the benches have been removed from the Five Points park!
This morning a homeless man was arrested just outside my door. I had just passed him no less than 30 minutes earlier as I engaged in a morning walk. Imagine my surprise upon returning to see that no less than 4 police cruisers had descended on the avenue! Of course, my first assumption was that something somewhat serious had gone down. No…just an arrest.
Having already sat through discussions regarding the city of Sarasota’s inability to afford its police department, it stands to reason that maybe, just maybe, we’re concentrating our efforts needlessly in incidents like this! Are we just dealing with a misuse of our police force when EVERYONE in the vicinity just “stops by” to see what’s happening and then hangs out until a call comes in? So it would seem. I would assume that our police would roam established territories to provide a visual deterrent to crime rather than simply responding to calls after the offense!
In an attempt to get a better understanding of the situation, I approached the scene and asked the officers why it took 4 cruisers to arrest one person?! Of the three officers willing to respond, one gave me some kind of garbage about “it’s a slow morning and there was nothing else to do” (?!?), while the other two were at least honest enough to answer more seriously. I responded by dismissing the one officer as a liar and turned my attention to the other two officers. If he could’ve justified tazing me, he probably would have!
As the arresting officer came to the back of her cruiser to continue writing up the report, I asked again “why does it take so many officers and cruisers to arrest one HOMELESS and WEAK person?” The answer this time was that an arresting officer would need a witness to the incident. Ok. That requires ONE more person!
Still dissatisfied with the level of answers, I formally introduced myself as a member of the press and revealed that I had spoken with higher-ranking members of the SPD, as well as Commissioners about situations like this. I was now engaging just one officer as the others fell back. Then another cruiser pulled up (yes, that makes 5 on the scene!) and this once vocal member of the SPD had suddenly gone silent!
He claimed that he had already answered my query and that I had made up my mind…No…I was still awaiting an honest, no b.s., answer! It never came.
So, I walked away with the same conclusion that I was trying to clear up when I approached them; the SPD apparently has nothing better to do than waste our financial resources by converging on whatever’s happening just to kill some time. Multiple responders to dangerous situations makes all the sense in the world but, when you drive up to a scene just to avoid the boredom of a slow day…. I guess there’s always room for one more!