Chair Esteban Bovo Jr. says no circus at county commission
Written by Susan Danseyar on February 7, 2017
Chair Esteban Bovo Jr. said Tuesday during a Miami-Dade County Commission meeting that he’ll always take issue when someone uses public comment periods to launch an attack on an elected official, and he cut people off to move on to business at hand rather than “turn the meeting into a circus.”
Members of the public can speak freely Feb. 22 when the commission discusses legislation urging the Florida Legislature to require law enforcement officers to issue a civil citation rather than arrest first-time misdemeanor juvenile offenders, Mr. Bovo said. He apologized for offending anyone by asking that a man be removed from the commission chambers after heated commentary. “It’s not that I didn’t want anyone to speak, but that I didn’t want this turning into a sideshow,” Mr. Bovo said. “We will deal with this issue another time; it will be a long meeting when all your comments can be expressed.”
Many people stood up to address the resolution, sponsored by Sally Heyman and co-sponsored by Vice Chair Audrey Edmonson. A few spoke ardently, including a member of the Miami-Dade Democratic Committee, who said he’s deeply concerned with the way “we criminalize people in our community” as well as how the chairman was conducting the meeting with “censorship that’s unconstitutional.”
The issue appears to draw strong response. Others implored the commission to adopt the resolution, saying it’s not uncommon for young people to make a mistake but their lives shouldn’t forever be wrecked by one foolish slip-up.
According to the resolution, the Florida Department of Juvenile Justice Civil Citation program offers youths who make a mistake an alternative to arrest that does not leave a juvenile record accessible by the public. To participate, a youth must “take responsibility for the mistake and admit wrongdoing; and is required to complete community service hours and other sanctions that may include letters of apology, counseling and payment of restitution to the victim.”
Rather than arresting a youth who is involved in common misbehavior, the resolution states, the Juvenile Citation Program offers early intervention, counseling, education and other appropriate community interventions without the harshness, baggage and expense of an arrest.
Florida statutes allow that law enforcement officers may issue a civil citation to juveniles for certain violations or arrest juveniles for those violations. Miami-Dade implemented a similar juvenile citation program that was responsible for a 23% reduction in juvenile arrests and referrals to the Juvenile Justice System from 2007 to 2015.
On average, the cost to Miami-Dade taxpayers of an individual completing the program is less than half the cost of arrest and detention, the resolution reports.
Three bills filed for the 2017 session of the Legislature provide that one or more civil citation or similar diversion programs would be established in each county that must individually or collectively serve all juveniles who are alleged to have committed a violation that would be a misdemeanor if committed by an adult.
The bills would require law enforcement officers to issue a civil citation in lieu of arrest to first-time misdemeanor juvenile offenders who commit misdemeanor offenses including possession of alcoholic beverages, criminal mischief, battery, retail and farm theft, loitering or prowling, disorderly conduct, and possession of cannabis or drug paraphernalia.