For the first time since mid-2006, the week in Boca Raton began without Dan Alexander as police chief.
His departure still feels odd and rushed. It became public in October only because of an item on a Palm Beach County School Board meeting agenda. Before the board was approval of hiring Alexander to be director of the school district’s police department.
Naturally, the board agreed. Just look at the credentials. Alexander has spent three decades in law enforcement, including four years as chief in the Gulf Coast city of Cape Coral before returning to Boca Raton. He joined the city department as a captain in 1999 and became an assistant chief the next year. He holds two degrees from the University of Florida: a bachelor’s in criminal justice and a master’s in public administration.
At one point, some political types told me that they saw Alexander as a potential successor to Sheriff Ric Bradshaw if Bradshaw decided to retire. He’s running next year for a fifth term.
Alexander always dismissed the idea when I asked about it. He’s not the type to run for office, and he never asked about it. But his reputation made people consider it. Coincidentally, I heard the same thing about Frank Kitzerow, who was the chief in Jupiter for 13 years before becoming school district chief in 2018. Alexander will report to him.
From the job description, Alexander will be the district department’s chief operations officer. His hiring comes as the department grows to nearly 300 officers, in response to the post-Parkland state law requiring at least one officer on every campus. Palm Beach County has one of the few district police departments in the state.
Outside agencies have complained privately to me about the quality of district police officers. I could see Kitzerow making Alexander responsible for raising standards to bolster credibility when parents are on hair-trigger alert about school safety.
Alexander’s low-key departure from Boca Raton was in contrast to those of his three predecessors. All left amid controversy.
Frank Carey resigned in 1983 because he had written improper traffic tickets. Former City Manager Donna Dreska forced out Peter Petracco in 1998 because he had denied any knowledge of doctored crime stats. In fact, Petracco had known for a year that the department’s third in command was doing so.
And in 2005, Andrew Scott resigned five months after he overrode judicial policy and did a favor for a local developer who had been a friend of the department. Scott allowed the late Greg Talbott to avoid the mandatory night in jail after an arrest for domestic violence. The union vote of no confidence in Scott was 152-3.
That comparison underscores what Alexander did for the department when he came back as chief and said simply, “It’s time to talk less and do more.” A city spokeswoman said Monday that there is “no timetable” for when City Manager Leif Ahnell will name Alexander’s successor. The focus for now is on “supporting” Interim Police Chief Michele Miuccio.
Boca crime rates
Speaking of crime statistics, Boca Raton Mayor Scott Singer emailed residents last week to say, among other things, “Crime rates are down again.”
I was curious about Singer’s use of “again.” Statistics come from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Uniform Crime Report. Each police department and sheriff’s office sends the FDLE its numbers for crimes and clearances. Those are the reports Boca Raton had been doctoring two decades ago. Examples: The city was classifying aggravated batteries as vandalism and downgrading vehicle break-ins to petty theft. Did someone not believe that Boca Raton was a safe city?
For 2018, the overall crime rate in Boca Raton— based on seven categories—did decline, by about 7.5 percent. Statewide, the decrease was 9.3 percent. But for obvious reasons, the 2019 numbers aren’t in. A police department spokesman didn’t know what source Singer— who is up for reelection in March—might have used.
I emailed and texted Singer to ask, but didn’t hear back by deadline for this post. I will update when I get the mayor’s response.
Mayor touts Brightline
In that email newsletter, Singer also touted the Brightline/Virgin Trains USA station proposed for the city. The lease to allow the project remains on track to go before the city council next week.
Singer contacted VTUSA to express the city’s interest. He said the deal has “gotten a lot sweeter for residents and has moved in the right direction.” His assessment, though, leaves out some points.
Singer correctly said that Brightline would pay “most of the infrastructure costs,” with the company’s share being $25 million. He didn’t say that the city would pay $12 million—nearly all the cost—of a parking garage that would primarily be for train passengers.
Singer correctly said that Brightline would lease the roughly 1.8 acres of city land next to the Downtown Library for the station and garage. He didn’t say that the lease payment would be just $1 per year. And though the agreement—unlike what Brightline first proposed—would not come with development rights, the company still would get right of first refusal if the city ever wanted to sell the rest of the library site.
Climate Summit at ground zero
From today through Thursday, the 11th annual Southeast Florida Regional Climate Leadership Summit will take place in Key West. How appropriate. A report in The Miami Herald said Monroe County might need several billion dollars to protect the Keys against rising seas.
Gov. Rick Scott prohibited members of his administration even from saying “climate change” or “global warming” in public. Gov. Though Ron DeSantis has a different attitude, state Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, was right when he said that the state “lost a decade” in its existential fight.
But things are happening. Florida Atlantic University just announced a $1.3 million grant from Florida Division of Emergency Management (FDEM) to begin developing a flood management program for cities and counties. Local governments can secure lower flood insurance premiums for residents by strengthening seawalls and improving public awareness programs.
Frederick Bloetscher is a professor in FAU’s Department of Civil, Environmental and Geomatics—data collection and mapping—Engineering. The release quotes Bloetscher as saying, “We are working with the Florida Division of Emergency Management on this pilot project to determine where the gaps in watershed data are.”
The researchers will create a tool to locate the areas that are most and least vulnerable to flooding. The pilot project will conclude in September and produce two watershed master plans. The project is scheduled to go statewide in three years.