The TV news report titled "Asleep at 911" ran late last month on Local 10.
It was pure tabloid television.
Reporter Jeff Weinsier, a 20-year veteran at Local 10, had come into possession of some photographs taken late last year that allegedly showed some Miami Beach 911 dispatch supervisors sleeping on the job.
Anchor Laurie Jennings breathlessly introduced the report this way: "Experts say the conduct of the dispatch supervisors could put police officers, firefighters and your life in danger."
Problem is, Weinsier didn't tell the entire story.
The photographs in Weinsier's report were taken by a disgruntled Miami Beach 911 call center employee who had recently been disciplined. Weinsier never disclosed that information in his report.
While putting his report together, Weinsier tried to contact Miami Beach police chief Ray Martinez for a comment. When asked by a spokesman to email the photographs, Weinsier refused.
Instead, in a move straight out of the National Enquirer playbook, Weinsier showed up at an event the chief was attending, and ambushed him; a tactic many in journalism consider borderline unethical.
When the chief wouldn't comment, Weinsier pulled another cheesy stunt, hitting the streets, photos in hand, seeking out comments from "Beach residents."
One can almost picture a wild-eyed Weinsier running up to startled pedestrians on Lincoln Road, frantically waving his color 8x10 shots and asking, "Hey, what do you think of these photos of sleeping 911 dispatchers? Are you outraged?"
What in the hell did you expect them to say, Jeff?
|Miami Beach city manager|
First, Morales - who took over as city manager last April 1 - tells Weinsier, "I didn't know we had pictures like this of people falling asleep."
But a minute after making that statement, Morales tells Weinsier, "Candidly, I'm not surprised. When I started this job, one of the early issues we identified is that we had a 911 unit that was understaffed."
But had a real journalist been conducting the interview, the next question surely would have been, "Well, Mr. Morales, if you identified the 911 unit early on as having issues, why didn't you take any corrective action? After all, you've been city manager for 10 months. What were you waiting for?"
But we never hear Weinsier ask that question.
The theme that keeps popping up in Weinsier's reports is that somehow, the lives of Miami Beach cops and residents were put in danger because a supervisor napped for a few minutes on her break.
But earlier this week, in a report on changes made at the call center, Weinsier quotes Morales as saying "I also want to point out that we have not identified any instances where the public was endangered. These were supervisors, and not call takers or dispatchers. There is no evidence or complaints that any calls were lost or not taken."
As for those changes at the call center, Weinsier reported that Morales has transferred control of the police department's Public Communications Unit to city hall. The unit "will now report directly to Emergency Management Coordinator Chuck Tear. Tear oversaw the 911 unit in Palm Beach County when he was the Public Safety Director there," Weinsier reports.
Morales hired Tear as Miami Beach's Emergency Management Coordinator last May. (Tear's full resume can be seen here.)
Another thing Weinsier doesn't bother to mention in his report is that with Tear's appointment, the Miami Beach Police Department's communications section is now the only South Florida police agency without a sworn law enforcement professional in charge.
Tear, who boasts on his resume that he has a degree in "business management" from the online diploma mill, University of Phoenix, is a civilian employee with virtually no law enforcement experience.
Sources tell me that it's Morales who is now putting lives in danger with his appointment of Tear to a position that demands someone with an extensive background in law enforcement.
By way of comparison, the Miami-Dade Police Department's communications bureau is overseen by a police major, with shift commanders with the rank of sergeant supervising call takers and dispatchers. The Miami Police Department's communications section is run by a lieutenant, with police sergeants who also act as supervisors.
One source, a long-time observer of Miami Beach's political scene, calls Morales' appointment of Tear, a "diabolical move" orchestrated by Mayor Philip Levine.
"Think about it for a second. The city manager and the mayor now have a mole inside the police department. And he's hiding in plain sight," my source told me.
Tear's appointment as head of Miami Beach's call center hasn't gone unnoticed at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the agency that sets the standards for the state's public safety tele-communicators.
A few days ago, Larry Coffee, head of information security for the FDLE's Criminal Justice Information Services sent a strongly worded email to Miami Beach police chief Raymond Martinez.
In it he reminded Martinez that "an entity is not allowed access to the Florida Crime Information Center and the FBI's National Crime Information Center without direct control or management control from a recognized criminal justice agency."
Seems that putting Tear in charge of the department's 911 unit is a violation the police department's Management Control Agreement with FDLE.
Your move, Jimmy.