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John Brooks was appointed chief of the Sunrise Police Department in September 2007.
Brooks came to the Sunrise PD from the Broward Sheriff's Office where he'd served since May 2000. Prior to that Brooks had been a member of the Miami Police Department since 1975, rising to the rank of assistant chief before his retirement in 2000.
Not long after his appointment as chief, Brooks must have looked around his town of some 85,000 residents and said to himself, "Damn, there isn't enough crime and there aren't enough criminals here to keep us busy. Let's import some!"
So he got busy.
Last Sunday, the Sun-Sentinel reported that Sunrise undercover detectives have for years been luring drug dealers and buyers "from as far north as Canada and as far south as Peru" to Sunrise where they negotiated "the sale of kilos of cocaine in popular family restaurants, [and busting] the buyers and seiz[ing] their cash and cars."
SUNRISE — Police in this suburban town best known for its sprawling outlet mall have hit upon a surefire way to make millions. They sell cocaine.
Undercover detectives and their army of informants lure big-money drug buyers into the city from across the United States, and from as far north as Canada and as far south as Peru. They negotiate the sale of kilos of cocaine in popular family restaurants, then bust the buyers and seize their cash and cars.
Police confiscate millions from these deals, money that fuels huge overtime payments for the undercover officers who conduct the drug stings and cash rewards for the confidential informants who help detectives entice faraway buyers, a six-month Sun Sentinel investigation found.
Police have paid one femme fatale informant more than $800,000 over the past five years for her success in drawing drug dealers into the city, records obtained by the newspaper show.
Undercover officers tempt these distant buyers with special discounts, even offering cocaine on consignment and the keys to cars with hidden compartments for easy transport. In some deals, they’ve provided rides and directions to these strangers to Sunrise.
Today, the Sun-Sentinel reports that the Sunrise PD will no longer "lure out-of-town drug buyers into Sunrise to purchase cocaine."
A money-making venture to lure out-of-town drug buyers into Sunrise to purchase cocaine from police has been halted as a result of a Sun Sentinel investigation.
Mayor Michael Ryan, who supports the undercover stings, lay blame for ending the operation on the newspaper's reporting techniques. He said the paper exposed police tactics and strategy and compromised the work.
Ryan did not express concerns about cocaine buyers being lured into the city and closing deals in such public locations as parking lots and family restaurants. In a statement to the paper, he said he was told by police that the public has never been in danger.
The mayor did not address huge overtime payments to undercover officers and lucrative rewards to a network of secret informants.
So what does Chief Brooks think of the Sun-Sentinel outing his department?
Brooks has remained silent on the controversy, letting any response come from his staff or from the commission, to which he reports. He's repeatedly denied requests for comment from the Sun Sentinel before publication and after, and he hung up on a reporter Thursday.
Brooks is not the first South Florida police chief to fall victim to the siren call of millions of dollars in drug cash.
Last March, Bal Harbour police chief Tom Hunker was fired from his job after it was alleged that he misspent "millions of dollars [his department] received through a federal forfeiture program. The Justice Department also alleged that Hunker abused his position for personal benefit."
This is not the first time Brooks has found himself in the media spotlight.
In 2006, when he was a major in the Broward Sheriff's Office, Brooks was forced to apologize after a video tape surfaced showing him and Broward deputies making fun of protesters at the 2003 Free Trade Area of the Americas summit in Miami.
"I just keep thinking back on the events ... the rocks and chunks of bricks that were coming at us and all of a sudden you hear pop, pop, pop, pop, pop," [Brooks] said on the tape, referring to the sound of guns firing rubber bullets and pepper spray pellets. "That weapon saved us a lot of injuries."
One deputy handed [Brooks] a black cloth that could have been a hood or facemask "from one of the scurrying cockroaches," the deputy said, referring to the protesters.
"This is going in my office forever," Brooks replied, "and it's going to bring some very good memories."