BCPBA News

Robert Cuba Wins BCPBA’s 2018 Scholarship Essay Contest

The Broward County Police Benevolent Association, Inc. (BCPBA) presented awards to the winners of its annual college scholarship essay contest at its quarterly board of directors meeting held on July 19, 2018.

The organization awarded top scholarships for the 2018-2019 academic year to five students of the organization’s law enforcement members. The essay topic for the applicants was, “The opioid crisis in America has reached epidemic proportions, and this disease doesn’t discriminate based on race, ethnic origin, age or socio-economic status. Families are being destroyed, and there doesn’t seem to be an answer to eradicating this problem. New solutions must be developed, and the law enforcement component must be part of the new equation. What do you think law enforcement’s role should be in striking a balance between upholding the law against the possession and use of illegal narcotics and the option of treatment, instead of punishment, for the offender?”

This year’s first place winner is Robert Cuba of Pembroke Pines. Robert received a $1,200 scholarship, which will be applied toward his education at the University of Florida. The first place scholarship award was sponsored by Matthew Oppedisano of the Wellington, Florida-based Law Enforcement Retirement Advisory Service.

The second place winner was Lexi O’Brien of Fort Lauderdale. Lexi received a $600 scholarship, donated by Richard Applefeld, and will be applied toward her education at the University of Central Florida.

The remaining winners each received scholarships in the amount $500 from the Broward County PBA.

The third place recipient was Brianna Costello of Jacksonville. Brianna is currently attending the University of North Florida, and will continue to do so through graduate school. Taylor Seldin of Boynton Beach earned the fourth place award, and will be attending the University of Central Florida. The fifth place winner was Lesley Cosme of Riverview. Lesley will be attending Penn State University.

The Broward County PBA Annual Scholarship Award was founded in 2003 as part of The HOPE Fund’s mission to assist the children of law enforcement members in their effort to attend college. To be eligible for the scholarship, participants must be the son or daughter of a Broward County PBA member in good standing and plan to be a part-time or full-time student at an accredited two- or four-year university. More information about the scholarship can be found at bcpba.org.

The Winning Essay

With the recent increase in media scrutiny, police officers have been facing mounting pressure to meet high standards in every aspect of their jobs. The opioid crisis creates a new challenge: should police officers arrest opioid addicts at the cost of breaking up families and potentially derailing lives?

According to Sir Robert Peel, the founder of modern policing, one of the core principles of policing is “To recognise always the need for strict adherence to police-executive functions, and to refrain from even seeming to usurp the powers of the judiciary, of avenging individuals or the State, and of authoritatively judging guilt and punishing the guilty.”

Peel’s statement provides strong philosophical support for the idea that the police should address opioid abuse by enforcing the law, the same way they are expected to address other crimes. Although ignoring the individual needs of opioid addicts seems objectionable at first, there are numerous reasons why Peel’s principle still holds true in this case.

Before they have a chance to be arrested, opioid addicts have many treatment options available to them. They can have their health insurance company pay for their rehab, seek out help from charitable or faith-based organizations, or stop abusing drugs on their own. But once their addiction becomes problematic enough for them to be confronted by police, whether it’s for a drug-related offense or for some other crime, the best course of action is for the officers to arrest the offender to prevent further harm.

Our society has come to expect a lot from police officers, but legally, it is the responsibility of the courts to decide the fates of the accused. They specialize in this task, so they are much better equipped to find a solution for each person who is arrested, whether that solution involves treatment, punishment, both, or neither.

Evidence linking substance abuse to crime provides a strong argument that police officers have a responsibility to separate drug addicts from their communities to promote public safety. A 1981 study found that opiate addicts in Baltimore were six times more likely to commit crimes while they were using opiates than while they were abstinent.

The police do not have the necessary resources to single-handedly solve the opioid crisis, but they don’t have to. The role of law enforcement should primarily be to enforce the law to protect the community. It is up to higher levels of government to create and modify laws, and the courts have the final say on the best way to interpret those laws for the benefit of society, but this only matters if the police do their part and bring them opioid addicts in need of assistance.

City of Hollywood Failing To Comply With State Law

The City of Hollywood’s non-compliance in properly funding its Police Officers’ Retirement System could cost the municipality, and its taxpayers, $5.5 million in State Premium tax money for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017, according to the Florida Division of Retirement and an actuarial report prepared for the City.

By failing to deposit $4.1 million into the Trust to cover the full amounts of the 13th check distributions in 2014 and 2015, Chapter 185 monies are being withheld, and additional tax revenues may be withheld as well.

“The City continues to kick the can with no real solutions,” Broward County PBA President Jeff Marano said.

The City of Hollywood has been notified that it is advantageous for it to deposit the $4.1 million into the Trust because the State Premium tax money in the amount of $5.5 million would be released in order to offset the City’s required contribution. The City of Hollywood was also notified that it is contributing to the Trust as if it is receiving the State Premium tax money, which has created a funding deficiency. If the situation is not corrected in a timely manner, additional funding pressures will be placed on the City as the plan’s sponsor, which could be up to an additional $50 million in lost revenue.

The Florida Capitol Report For The Week Ending Feb. 9

The halfway mark of the 2018 Legislative Session has arrived.

The major event of the week was the separate passages of the 2018-19 spending plans. As a state, Florida is now operating in the $80 billion range and, with these two proposals, we will be reaching and then eclipsing $87 Billion. Hard to believe.

The House and Senate have several areas of disagreement between the two spending plans. K-12 Education, Higher Education, Environmental, Health Care and Corrections are all areas where the plans diverge widely. The showdown over K-12 Education could prove to be quite a battle during the session’s second half. Monstrous battles over big spending items can suck the air out of the room. This leaves other issues as after thoughts. Our lobbying job will require constant contact with the legislative deciders in order to keep our issues “in play.”

Let’s review what remains “in play” at the halfway point of the session.

From a spending plan standpoint, PBA bargaining units are in at least one budget proposal … in some cases both proposals. That means pay raises are “in play” for the negotiations between the House and Senate.

The COLA legislation passed through a single Senate committee and it was workshopped in a House committee. That probably puts the issue “in play” to get funding for a special impact study which is a constitutional requirement for any benefit enhancement. If this COLA study occurs, we may have the opportunity to add in estimating the costs to reverse the age and years of service requirements for FRS employees hired after July 1, 2011. Getting an actuary to study the costs of both ideas in one study is “in play.”

The PTSD legislation has been heard in committees of both the House and the Senate thereby placing this issue in a position to pass by the end of session.

Both local pension bills are ready to be heard on the House floor. The process for local bills happens later in the session when the chambers follow a consent procedure. This procedure allows them to roll through multiple local bills in a short amount of time. The local pension bills seem to be on track to pass.

The electronic threats bill and the toll exemption for unmarked LEO vehicles are “in play” to pass this session, too. We had to amend the toll exemption bill onto another item (SB 1012) to get the issue moving in the Senate, but that is not uncommon.

Politics and legislating any issue can often be a struggle. Lobbying can be intense. It takes a strategy. PBA has put in a strategic plan for every issue that was mentioned up above and for several that are not being mentioned.

One key component of our strategy is to help elect supporters/allies of Law Enforcement, Correctional and Probation Officers and their families to important positions within our state. To facilitate building up our allies, PBA leaders met with multiple statewide candidates this week and outlined to them the hopes, dreams and struggles for officers and their families. We were impressed by each candidate.

There are 28 days left.

Thank you to everyone who lobbied with us this week:

Florida PBA President John Rivera, Senior Vice President Dick Brickman, Treasurer Ernie George, Vice President John “Kaz” Kazanjian, Vice President Mick McHale and Sergeant at Arms Jeff Marano

Broward County PBA Vice President Rod Shirvin

FHP Chapter President Bill Smith

Correctional Probation Officers Trusteeship Tony Highsmith

The Florida Capitol Report For The Week Ending October 24

We wrapped up the second legislative interim committee week in preparation for the 2018 Legislative Session. Our lobbying team spent much of the week gathering information from key staff members, legislators and other special interest groups. The budget outlook is still murky as a result of Hurricane Irma, yet the outlook is far from bleak . . . at least in my opinion.

Our legislative agenda is still taking shape, but, as I wrote in the last update, multiple issues are already in the process.

Priority funding for all of our state bargaining units continues to our primary budgetary consideration. We are lobbying for pay raises for State Law Enforcement Officers, Florida Highway Patrol, Lottery, FDLE Special Agents, and the Security Services Unit (including Correctional Officers, Probation Officers and Institutional Security Specialists). The Governor and agencies have put forward a spending proposal for State Law Enforcement, Highway Patrol and FDLE. The PBA bargaining teams are scheduled to begin bargaining with the Department of Management Services over those proposals on November 6. The Governor is asking for flexibility to fund the specific pay needs of each agency. Great idea. We are encouraged by what we have seen so far, but details need to be sorted over. Expect to see a list of each proposal following the November 6th bargaining session. PBA may put forward a pay proposal at a later negotiation unless an agreement is reached on the individual agency plans.

The PBA Security Services bargaining team has already put forward a pay proposal and we are scheduled for a second negotiation in mid-November. The team is asking for a 3% across the board increase with a 2% longevity step for every Security Services Unit officer (including Correctional Officers, Probation Officers and Institutional Security Specialists) with more than five years of state service. An additional $2,500 pay request for Probation Officers and Institutional Security Specialist is included to reach equity with FDC Correctional Officers. Probation Officers and Institutional Security Specialist were not included in last year’s pay raise for FDC Correctional Officers.

Anatrisha Jackson from our Correctional Probation Officers’ Trustee Board joined us in Tallahassee on Tuesday and Wednesday. She met with several legislators and staff to educate them on the probation officers’ role within the criminal justice system and why a pay raise is needed to keep officers at the agency.

We are also working closely with the Florida Professional Firefighters to secure sponsors for legislation restoring, or restructuring, the Florida Retirement System Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA). The COLA was suspended on July 1, 2011 and with each passing month the COLA accrual rate continues to drop. We are eager to address this problem and we remain hopeful that the full Legislature can support us.

Senator Lauren Book (SB 376), Senator Victor Torres (SB 126) and Representative Matt Willhite (HB 227) have filed legislation to reform worker’s compensation coverage for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Current law requires that coverage be provided when the mental or nervous system injury results from a physical line of duty bodily injury. As we all understand, PTSD often occurs without an accompanying physical injury. We are working with the Professional Firefighters and the Fraternal Order of Police to reform the existing law to expand the coverage requirements and help first responders who are suffering.

PBA will also lobby to change toll road requirements for unmarked official law enforcement vehicles. Today, an unmarked law enforcement vehicle is not exempt from paying the tolls while many other exemptions exist. Representative Shawn Harrison (HB 141), Senator Dana Young (SB 356) and Senator Denise Grimsley (SB 336) are sponsoring legislation to add these vehicles to the list of toll road exemptions.

Finally, PBA Lobbyist Gary Bradford provided public support for HB 165 by Representative Stan McClain. This legislation put forward by the Florida Police Chiefs Association will designate electronically communicated threats to kill or do bodily harm as a second degree felony.

Stay safe!

Matt Puckett
Executive Director
Florida PBA

The Official Start Of Legislative Interim Committee Meetings Began Last Week

The official start of Legislative Interim Committee meetings began last week. Per usual, the first committee meetings are designed to get reacquainted with state agencies’ finances, effects of new laws and, obviously, the lingering issues of the state. This week was typical in this regard with the impact of Hurricane Irma casting a large shadow over the hearings. The legislative tone was a little weary, but Florida’s first responders were consistently highlighted in a very positive light.

Multiple legislators asked me to send a “thank you” for your efforts during the hurricane. Your sacrifices have not gone unnoticed in the Capitol. The appreciation for your job is at an all time high right now. Let’s all hope the praise translates into a meaningful session for law enforcement, probation and correctional officers and your families.

Much of what we are trying to accomplish this year is targeted at certain niche’ officer populations like Correctional Probation Officers, State Law Enforcement Officers, Troopers, Correctional Officers, FRS employees, and individual municipalities. In each subsequent Capitol Report, I will categorize the topics into segments so you can jump right to your areas of concern, but, in this version, I am addressing everyone collectively.

An awful lot has transpired in a brief amount of time. We have fellow officers without homes and, unfortunately, we have lost others to more senseless violence. Under any other circumstance, a person, or group of people, could be excused for wanting a break from the grind, but none of you have that luxury. Florida’s citizenry depends on you too much even though not everyone shows their appreciation. For what it’s worth, I saw the appreciation in full effect this week from every corner of the Capitol.

The tangible signs of respect were present, too.

There is support for more wage increases for all of our state bargaining units. The Governor and multiple state law enforcement agencies put pay raises at the top of their priority funding lists. Legislation addressing the COLA suspension for all FRS employees is in the bill drafting stage. Three separate bills have been filed to address PTSD compensation concerns for first responders. Of course, other legislative issues are filed like waiving toll fees for unmarked official law enforcement vehicles and enhanced penalties for threats against law enforcement. More issues for first responders will follow in the coming weeks and months. Session starts in January so the pace will pick up rather rapidly.

Hurricane Irma will have an effect on state and local budgets, but I am encouraged by the level of support for you in the Capitol. The PBA team will do our best to ride the wave.

Here’s hoping this early support translates into a successful session.

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Broward County Police
Benevolent Association
2650 West State Road 84
Fort Lauderdale, FL 33312

Telephone: (954) 584-7600
Fax: (954) 583-0405

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