Hundreds of residents of Hollywood, Florida, who have previously been accused of domestic violence received letters from the police threatening to target them for enhanced “scrutiny and/or penalties” and “unannounced police checks on your residence.”
Not letter recipients were convicted of committing domestic violence; some were only accused of it. And police officers, who themselves were perpetrators of domestic abuse, received no such letter.
The letter, signed by Sgt. Rhett Cady of Hollywood’s Domestic Violence Unit, stated the city is “taking a new focused approach in preventing future acts of domestic violence” by adding names to a watch list for so-called “C list” offenders.
“Your status as a ‘C’ list offender brings you closer to a possible prison sentence,” the letter stated.
The city’s website states it is the first deterrent of this kind to prevent “the repeat cycle of violence.”
However, Broward Public Defender Howard Finkelstein is skeptical of the claim, noting that a Hollywood police officer arrested in December for domestic abuse was not placed in the watch list.
Lt. Michael McKinney was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery on Dec. 28, after his wife reported to the police that her husband hit her on the head twice and kicked her in the ribs during an argument. Police officers observed swelling on the woman’s forehead and temple as well as redness and swelling on her thorax. McKinney only spent a single night in jail after his wife refused to press charges.
Regardless of the fact, he allegedly did physically abuse his wife and his name should have also been on the list. Finkelstein believes the fact that it was not means the police department is rife with favoritism and double standards.
He also says that the department did not send the letters to police officers accused of abuse because they would recognize the illegal police action (unannounced police checks and unconstitutional scrutiny) and challenge them in court.
Finkelstein called the program “an abuse of police power.”
“There is no legal authority for the letter, thus it is nothing more than an unlawful threat of retaliation directed at individuals who were merely accused of a crime and who are entitled to a presumption of innocence in a court of law,” stated the public defender in a letter to Hollywood Police Chief Tomas Sanchez. “The letter smacks of police intimidation and threatens the illegal and unconstitutional entry of the arrestee’s home. This overreaching is offensive to civil liberty and completely ignores the law with respect to law enforcement’s authority to enter a person’s home.”
Hollywood started its “domestic violence initiative” in May 2015. The city states that since the project began, there has been a decline of 26 percent in domestic-related incidents each month, which they attribute to this program.
However Finkelstein is not convinced, claiming that overall crime is down across the board.
“When they say the reduction is in part because of their efforts, well maybe in part but I doubt it is statistically significant,” he said. “Checking in on victims is a good idea. Showing care and concern. But using threats intimidation and physical force and or presence directed toward the presumed innocent arrestee is wrong and illegal. …The road to constitutional hell is always paved with good intentions.”