Orlando Police Department Is Out Of Control

johnminaby Katrina Waters, Ph.D.
With the killing of 22-year-old Maria Fernanda Godinez, it is now clear that the Orlando Police Department is totally out of control. In response to a 911 call from a downtown bar owner, five police officers arrived on the scene, jumped off their bicycles like cowboys on steroids and one of them opened fire on a man who had a pistol tucked in the waistband.

A 911 call recorded the nine shots fired by the officer. It sounded like a machine-gun going off. Didn't know police could use automatic pistols. Six bullets entered the man, one bullet hit another police officer in the leg and one bullet entered the bar and killed little Maria.

The .40 caliber Ruger handgun pulled from the wounded man's waistband was not even loaded. In fact, his loose-fitting shirt hid the weapon from plain view.

Back to the beginning: When the police arrived, they surrounded a man pointed out by the bar owner. He was ordered to the ground, but he didn't comply fast enough. An officer attempted to shoot him with a Taser, but the prongs got tangled in the man's loose-fitting shirt. The man then lifted his shirt to avoid the electric shock. Ah, the sudden move. And with that all hell broke loose. When the shots stopped, young Maria laid lifeless on a bar room floor.

In considering the actions of any organization – be it an administration or a police department – one

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only has to consider the attitude of the organization's leader. The principal leader sets the tone and dictates the modus operandi.

Orlando Police Chief John Mina in a recent speech to the rank and file stated that he "hates criminals." The good book says that we should hate sin, but love the sinner. Chief Mina says hate the sinner.

In the same presentation he added, "We will hunt them down." Wow! His coded choice of words, in affect, reassured the cowboys within his ranks that they may continue to do to people as they please. In their ears, Mina's coded words meant arrest-at-will, beat and or kill.

I must say that the vast majority of Orlando police officers are professionals who put their lives on the line daily to serve and protect. But there are those cowboys who feel comfortable under Chief Mina's leadership to play interrogator, hunter and sometimes executioner. But they are not playing.

It is an open secret that there is a police goon squad that roams downtown after dark preying on residents and tourists alike.

When we look to what is happening in Ferguson, Missouri, and consider the nation-wide militarization of police departments, it is critical that a police chief have a firm hand on a disciplined police force.

It may be fanciful, but Sherriff Andy Taylor (The Andy Griffith Show) demonstrated the right kind of police leadership. He knew his community. He did not tote a pistol and required Deputy Barney Fife to keep his one bullet in his shirt pocket. Andy controlled situations with words and facial expressions. He put people first. He used discretion and considered humanity above judgment.

In the real world, police must carry weapons. But they can get to know the people of the communities in which they serve. And they can put people above situations. We are all human beings dealing with complex realities.

This trigger-happy police officer has triggered a number of major consequences. A family is grieving. That is paramount. And certainly a lawsuit is forth coming from the young lady's family and possibly one from the man shot six times. And don't forget the wounded police officer.

Beyond these personal tragedies, this shooting and killing will have an adverse affect on downtown tourism. There are several key tourist destinations in Central Florida vying for tourism dollars. If I were the public relations director for Disney or Universal, potential tourist would be fully warned about the dangers of going downtown Orlando. In a subliminal way, the message would be, `out of control police officers are abusing and even killing tourist'.

Neither attraction will do such a thing, but the story in the Orlando Sentinel, "Family mourns innocent woman killed by Orlando officer's bullet," has the same impact. The young lady who was killed is from Cocoa, Florida. A Cocoa news outlet ran the story of "Maria Godinez killed in Orlando Bar." The story read, "The family of the 22-year-old woman killed by an Orlando police officer's stray bullet says they are heartbroken. … She went to Cocoa High School, worked at a restaurant and was getting ready to go to college." A Norman Rockwell painted tragedy.

All the East Coast papers are running the story. This means people are whispering to friends and neighbors "stay away from downtown Orlando." Just think. You are planning a family vacation and you see this news about police-gone-wild in Orlando. You look at your spouse and children and without hesitation decide it will be Disney but not your favorite restaurant on Church Street. Oh, and cancel those Magic season tickets.

Really, this news story makes downtown Orlando sound like the Wild Wild West. Police bullet kills tourist. Who can be safe in that kind of an environment?

A leader must lead. And when a leader fails to lead or loses control then he must be brought into question. The lack of control at the Orlando Police Department has cost a young lady her life and has the potential of costing downtown Orlando vital tourism dollars.

Chief Mina, your cowboys can smoke bomb a Parramore party and manhandle a handcuffed young black woman, but when you mess with the money (tourism dollars), you will have to check your attitude and round-up your cowboys. Take charge or find a new town to brandish your tin star.

It is sad that it comes down to money. Doing the right thing by people, like Sherriff Andy Taylor, should be enough. The time has come for city leaders to take a long hard look at that their police chief. Residents and tourist want a friendly downtown and not an O.K. Corral.

OCPS 90 Jolie Cadle, in her capacity as an Orange County School Board member, signed a binding contract with the Orange County NAACP which outlined specific conditions by which the school board could close several named schools including Richmond Heights Elementary School.  Then, they reneged on that contract and voted to close Richmond Heights Elementary.  She and the board are now scheming to close Jones High School.  Vote 'No' for the half penny tax extension.


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