Maybe it is about time some activist judge ordered the police in Plant City, Florida to sew warning labels on their chests. Big labels. In neon colors that glow in the dark.
Plant City is town of about 25,000 people about 25 miles inland from Tampa. The police department employs 100 people. Seventy-four of them are sworn peace officers. Which works out to about one cop for every 340 citizens.
The department has an annual budget of $6 million. You do the math. Last year it got a $131,000 Christmas present from the federal government to buy 85 digital cameras. You can do the math on that, too.
The Police Chief is named Bill McDaniel. In 2002 a federal prosecutor said McDaniel was part of a conspiracy to hide evidence in an investigation into corruption in the department. McDaniel was never charged so he is still on the job. Four cops were charged and three of them did time.
Certainly, the Plant City PD wants everyone to know that they are not as bad as cynics might make them out to be. Even some local boosters might be cynical and the cops are sensitive to that so every year the police throw a lunch at the station for the local chamber of commerce.
This month, twenty local business men and women toured the police station, saw police dogs find drugs and then were herded into bleachers in the parking lot to watch four local motorcycle cops accelerate and stop and shift and counter steer their stuff.
Local Motorcycle Cops
If you have been around bikes for a couple of decades you can probably already see what is coming from where you are sitting right now. Quiet. Don’t ruin it.
If you haven’t been around long enough to have actually seen these clowns in action you might not realize that they rarely ride their motorcycles. They are not bikers although many of them aspire to be -hence cop patches like the Iron Pigs. Mostly local motorcycle cops hide along the side of busy roads and look for attractive mommies to ticket. For some reason, cops think attractive mommies really go for those ridiculous boots they all wear.
So now, even if you are new, you know that local motorcycle cops can’t ride any better than your average rhesus monkey but until about a week ago nobody in the Plant City Chamber of Commerce knew that.
Oh Gosh My Leg
“We went to this area to watch the motorcycles do a demonstration,” Lynn Connor, owner of the Tip to Toe Day Spa in Plant City told CBS affiliate WTSB. “Plant City has four motorcycle policemen and they did their demonstration which was quite impressive. I mean they had cones set up and they did their figure eights and things like that and then the final thing I remember thinking was…oh gosh I hope he stops! And then oh gosh he’s not going to stop! And then oh gosh my leg!”
Pamela Knight, another victim of the accident told the Lakeland Ledger that her last thought before the crash was, “Man, I hope his brakes work.”
Both women were transported to South Florida Baptist Hospital. Connor has undergone two operations to heal the damage to her leg and Knight has had her ankle surgically repaired.
Police Chief McDaniel, the guy the federal prosecutor called dirty, refuses to discuss the accident, according to three news sources, on “advice of his lawyer.”
Notice the use of the personal possessive pronoun “his.” Not the city’s lawyer. Not the county’s lawyer or the police union’s lawyer. His lawyer. What do you think? You think this McDaniel guy set up this whole accident so he could get a kick back from the ambulance company? Well, then why else won’t he talk?
The cop who actually rode his bike into the bleachers and over the two women, Officer Chad Rader has also chosen to exercise his constitutional right against talking to the press. Although it already is kind of a fact that he rode a motorcycle into a set of bleachers and over two women.
Rader did send flowers to Connor’s room with a note that read, “Hope you feel better soon,” which rings kind of insincere, even from the vantage of the opposite coast. Doesn’t that sound like the get well card you would send your probation officer?
The victims have noticed the cops are stonewalling. “I feel like they’re trying to sweep me under a rug,” Connor told the Ledger.
And, maybe they are. And, maybe somebody should sweep all of them under a rug. Maybe, all things considered, it might be time for Plant City to fire its police force and pay the Hillsborough County Sherriff’s that $6 million a year to do the job instead.