Saturday, February 28, 2015

Former Miami Gardens police chief Stephen Johnson is an innovative thinker and has excellent communication skills

UPDATED on March 5th with police surveillance video of Stephen Johnson's arrest.

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Former Miami Gardens police chief Stephen Johnson
BSO booking photo.

Stephen Johnson was - up until sometime last night - the police chief of Miami Gardens.

Johnson's Linkedin profile says he "is an innovative thinker, able to create and foster an efficient and productive workplace environment with exceptional levels of interpersonal and team communications. Stephen has excellent communication skills, professional development, and personnel administration skills. He also has well-developed management skills."

Chief Johnson had just endured a stressful week at work. At least that's what he told Local 10.

So Friday evening he did what many men do to relieve stress: he called up a hooker he found on

Chief Johnson ordered the stress-busting "30-minute, two girl special." His only request was that the ladies wear high heels. Price: $100.

But unbeknownst to Johnson, he hadn't contacted a real hooker.

The 30-year veteran cop who claims to be an "innovative thinker," had fallen for the oldest cop trick in the book: He'd been caught up in a prostitution sting being run by BSO's Crime Suppression team out of a Dania Beach Hotel ... and Johnson had just been stung.

There are more details on the arrest report if you care to read them.

But the bottom line is that Johnson was arrested at about 6:20 p.m. Friday night.

And as soon as the Miami Gardens City Manager heard about the arrest, he fired Johnson.

There's not much more I can say about this, so I'll close out with this great recipe for blueberry pancakes.


Recipe makes 12 pancakes

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons white sugar
1 egg
1 cup milk
1/2 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 cup frozen blueberries, thawed


In a large bowl, sift together flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. In a small bowl, beat together egg and milk. Stir milk and egg into flour mixture. Mix in the butter and fold in the blueberries. Set aside for 1 hour. Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each pancake. Brown on both sides, serve hot and enjoy.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Christopher Johnson, a Broward County sheriff's deputy who dragged a shackled woman down a courthouse hallway, just became the latest cop to learn the hard way that cameras are everywhere

Broward County Sheriff's deputy Christopher Johnson
drags inmate Dasyl Jeanette Rios down a courthouse 
hallway on Monday.
Photo by Bill Gelin. 

Christopher Johnson has been with the Broward County Sheriff's office since 1988.

Yesterday, Johnson became the latest South Florida cop to learn the hard way that everyone has a camera.

In this case, the person with the camera was attorney Bill Gelin, who also writes for the JAABlog, a muckraking Broward County Courthouse blog.

Here's what happened, according to the Sun-Sentinel's Rafael Olmeda:
A veteran Broward Sheriff's deputy who dragged a mentally incompetent woman through a courthouse hallway by the shackles around her ankles is now on restricted duty.
Johnson was recorded pulling Dasyl Jeanette Rios, 28, by the chain binding her feet together on the third floor of the Broward courthouse Monday morning.
According to witnesses, Rios was in court before Broward Judge Kal Le Var Evans for a mental competency hearing on a misdemeanor case. She is also being held without bond in the Broward Main Jail for violating probation on a felony drug possession case.

In a written report to her supervisor, Assistant Public Defender Rhonda Boettcher said Rios had been declared incompetent and, after her hearing was over, was heard arguing with a female deputy in the courtroom. Johnson interceded and escorted Rios into the hallway, Boettcher said. Once there, Rios sat on a bench and started to cry.

Assistant Public Defender Lynn DeSanti, who is married to Gelin, said she saw Johnson say "Get up, we're leaving." When Rios wouldn't get up, Johnson got physical, DeSanti said.

"He basically picked up this girl, yanked her off the bench, and started dragging her through the hallway," she said. "I said 'Stop it! What are you doing to her?' But he just told her, 'You don't want to walk? I'm going to drag you.'"

Olmeda reports "Broward Sheriff Scott Israel issued a statement six hours later questioning Johnson's conduct."
"I am concerned by the way the deputy handled this situation, because there were other courses of action he could have taken," Sheriff Scott Israel said. "Internal Affairs has initiated a complete and comprehensive investigation, and the deputy has been placed on restricted duty pending the outcome."


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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Dallas police chase ends with a 'citizen's arrest'

Chalk one up for the good guys.

A Wednesday police chase in Dallas ended with two people from another car taking down the suspect.

Dallas police were pursuing a robbery suspect, 40-year-old Atrai Alexander, about 3:30 p.m. in northeast Dallas. The suspect was being chased along stretches of 635 before exiting and driving on surface streets.

The Dodge Challenger he was driving then crashed into the back of a minivan at the intersection of Walnut Hill and Abrams.

The driver of the minivan, Jessica Liesmann, then got out of the vehicle, approached the suspect in the Challenger and dragged him out with the help of her boyfriend who was in the minivan with her.

The two then pinned Alexander to the ground until police arrived.

Liesmann and her boyfriend didn't know Alexander was the suspect in a police chase.

“I asked [Alexander], ‘What is wrong with you? What are you thinking? You're in a school zone!'” said Liesmann. “And he had nothing to say and acted like he was trying to run, so I remember kicking the door. All I can think about from there is, ‘You're not getting away, you're not getting away.'”

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Miami Herald 1991 intern recruiting poster

Click here to enlarge.


Almost 25 years ago, the Miami Herald tried to lure interns to South Florida with this slick poster, complete with a pitch from star columnist Carl Hiaasen.

Twenty-five years later, some things remain unchanged at the paper: advertising revenues are still declining and circulation still sucks.

On the plus side, Miami is still a great news town and the Herald now asks prospective interns to email their resumes instead of using snail mail.


Postcards from the edge

By Carl Hiaasen
Herald Columnist

We know what you're thinking.

Any newspaper that can afford to hire a bunch of big-name artists to create original big-time artwork for a crummy intern recruiting poster - well that's a newspaper that must be wallowing in surplus revenue and spending money that grows on palm trees.

Dream on. The Herald is just as stingy and gloomy as any paper in the country these days. You know the story - declining advertising revenues, flat circulation, budget freezes, blah-blah-blah.

So don't even bring up the subject of money, OK? Don't even think about it. In fact, the only reason we bother to pay our interns anything is because it's the law. Or original plan was to give out citrus - big bags of fresh oranges and grapefruits, in lieu of a salary - but our whiny pinhead accountants said no way, it's gotta be cash. Fine, but it doesn't have to be very much.

You're probably asking yourself: So why do people work down there?

Well, just look at this colorful (and expensive) poster. We've got your year-round sunshine, your beaches, your tropical beaches, your Biscayne Bay, your giant mutant lizards, your exploding fire hydrants.

But most of all, what we've got down here is news - news that won't find anywhere else in the hemisphere, news that is so weird, wild and warped that you've got to be here to believe it.

There's drug-running, gun-running, alien-running, cultists who slice off the ears of dead men, anti-Castro warriors who train in the Everglades for the next invasion of Cuba, judges who stuff (marked) $100 bills under their robes, and one ex-general on trial, Manuel Noriega. He resides in his very own jailhouse Dictator's Suite, complete with Xerox machine and a law library. Only in South Florida could this happen.

Sure, there are plenty of other big city newspapers from which a bright young journalist can choose. Try Pittsburgh, for example, or Des Moines or Salt Lake City, and you could stack up perfectly respectable clips on clubby Moose, Elks and Lions, and be bored to a coma. Here you get sharks - and goats and chickens for animal sacrifices.

So, for the adventure of a lifetime, try Miami.

Mail a resume, a few clips and an extraordinarily articulate letter - or if you're an artist, designer or a photographer, some slides or prints - to:

     Maria C. Garcia
     Associate Editor/Personnel
     The Miami Herald
     One Herald Plaza
     Miami, FL 33132

The deadline: Nov. 1, 1991. Don't blow it.

Soon thereafter Herald henchpersons will tour academia.

The program runs year-round, $485 a week for 12 weeks, and all the mangos and malangas you can eat.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Is the Miami Herald 'past the point of no return?'

Miami Herald building demolition, Nov. 2014.

They've been trying to tear down the old Miami Herald building for a year and half now. But it's not going down without a fight.

Some former and current Herald staffers see the slow-motion dismantling of One Herald Plaza as a metaphor for what's taking place at the paper.

On Facebook, one former Herald employee called the demolition of the building "the slowest death I have ever seen," and then added, "apart from the actual decline of the Herald."

The Herald's print circulation continues to plummet as employees with decades of experience head for the exits - either willingly or unwillingly. But Herald executives continue to insist that they're putting out a quality product...all while they work behind the scenes to cut back on content and trim staff. Today's paper was just 34 pages.

Late last month, executive editor Mindy Marqués Gonzalez apologized to the paper's few remaining print subscribers for eliminating the daily TV listings.

"I guess the changes weren’t so 'carefully considered' after all," one retired Herald newsman told me in an email, adding, "They're the gang that couldn’t publish straight."

But one has to wonder, who are the "many" who still rely on a newspaper for TV listings and why is the Herald going out of its way to accommodate them but doing absolutely nothing to appeal to younger readers? When was the last time you saw anyone in their 20s or 30s reading a copy of the Miami Herald?

Or as blogger David Putney wrote over the weekend, "I marvel that newspapers make any money at all. It’s like finding out MySpace is still around or Abe Vigoda is still alive. How is this possible, seriously? I see someone buying a print newspaper and I think 'why would you do that?'"

A few days ago, retired Herald reporter Elinor Brecher ruminated on how the paper - at one time the largest and most powerful in the state - got to where it is today:

The slow, ugly destruction of One Herald Plaza pretty much parallels the slow, ugly destruction of the Herald as a journalistic institution. 
As I've said in other posts, I truly mourn for my friends there who are still trying to do work that matters.  

Miami Herald building, Feb. 1, 2015.

Yes, the Internet is a major factor, but you can't discount terrible decisions made on both the news side and business side under both Knight-Ridder and McClatchy for hastening the Herald's decline. The governing principle was "give the readers less, ask them to pay more, and expect them to believe they're getting a good deal.'' You can't feed people a shit sandwich and call it roast beef.


McClatchy exec gets a nice retirement gift from the struggling newspaper chain

You can't run a credible news organization with interns, part-timers and absurdly overworked, exhausted, underpaid, demoralized employees expected to work unlimited unpaid OT.

You can't take a newspaper out of an iconic building in the heart of a city's most vibrant business district and exile it to the middle of freaking nowhere, out of sight and out of mind - and too far away from breaking news to actually cover it - and expect it to stay relevant.

You can't get rid of all the quality control (copy editors) so that your newspaper is an embarrassing mess of typos, headlines that make no sense, cringe-worthy mistakes and, on a daily basis, as much wire and TV "news partner'' content as staff content, if not more.

Yes, there are still amazing print and visual journalists working at the Herald and I love them for their dedication, but the decline is past the point of no return. It's a tragedy for them, for Miami, for journalism in general, and for democracy.

Monday, February 02, 2015

James Robertson of Detroit walks a round trip of 21 miles every day to get to his job and back home


James Robertson, of Detroit takes a brief nap while riding the bus 
along Woodward Ave. in Detroit on Thursday January 29, 2015 
to the Somerset Collection in Troy before beginning his daily 
walk to his job at Schain Mold & Engineering in Rochester Hills. 
(Photo: Ryan Garza, Detroit Free Press)

Think you've got a tough commute to work?

Think again.

A story by Detroit Free Press reporter Bill Laitner yesterday talked about what 56-year-old James Robertson of Detroit has to go through every day, just to get to his $10.55 an hour factory job 23 miles from his home.
Leaving home in Detroit at 8 a.m., James Robertson doesn't look like an endurance athlete.

Pudgy of form, shod in heavy work boots, Robertson trudges almost haltingly as he starts another workday.

But as he steps out into the cold, Robertson, 56, is steeled for an Olympic-sized commute. Getting to and from his factory job 23 miles away in Rochester Hills, he'll take a bus partway there and partway home. And he'll also walk an astounding 21 miles.

Five days a week. Monday through Friday.

It's the life Robertson has led for the last decade, ever since his 1988 Honda Accord quit on him.

Put another way, according to the Free Press, every year Robertson walks the equivalent of the distance from Detroit to Los Angeles – and back.

A follow-up story in today's paper says that fundraisers on social media have netted more than $44,000.

Sunday's story has also prompted a flood of offers that included one Chevy dealership pledging to give Robertson a 2014 Chevrolet Cruz or Sonic, and "more than a hundred others offered cash for a car, or their own cars, as well as bus tickets, bicycles and even daily chauffeur service for Robertson."

So the next time you feel like bitching about the 45 minutes you spend on I-95 each day, think about what James Robertson has had to put up with every day for the past ten years.