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#4871: Force lacks Haitian officers (fwd)

From: nozier@tradewind.net

Published Sunday, August 13, 2000, in the Miami Herald 
 Force lacks Haitian officers___ Lauderdale police: We are trying

 While Fort Lauderdale has the highest concentration of Haitians in
Broward County, the city's roughly 500-person police department doesn't
include even one Haitian, Creole-speaking officer. Haitian leaders say
the time has come for at least one Haitian officer on the police force
to make Haitians feel welcome in the community. Fort Lauderdale police
say they are looking for Haitians who can score high enough on a tough
written and oral test to rank among the top candidates for
 officer positions. But Haitian leaders look at other departments in
Broward that have Creole-speaking officers -- including Miramar, Wilton
Manors and the Broward Sheriff's Office -- and wonder why Fort
Lauderdale is unable to find qualified applicants. Miramar police say
they have at least five Haitian officers on their force of about
 115. Wilton Manors has one Haitian officer on its 31-member force, and
the Broward Sheriff's Office has 56 Creole-speaking employees --
including Haitians and non-Haitians on its 4,300-member force. BSO
patrols Pompano Beach, Oakland Park, Pembroke Park, Dania Beach,
 Lauderdale Lakes, Tamarac, Weston and Deerfield Beach, as well as
 unincorporated areas, said BSO spokeswoman Cheryl Stopnick. ``How is it
that [Fort Lauderdale] cannot realistically find a Haitian police
officer?'' asked Marvin Dejean, spokesman for Minority Development &
Empowerment, Inc./Haitian Community Center of Broward County, which uses
federal, county, state, city and private-foundation grants to provide
assistance to Haitian immigrants. Fort Lauderdale Assistant Police Chief
Jim Hurley said the department was trying to hire Haitians. ``We're
doing everything that we can conceive of to recruit and hire minority
candidates to include Haitian applicants,'' Hurley said. ``And I'm going
to hire them as soon as I can get to them.'' The 1990 Census counted
23,221 people of Haitian ancestry in Broward. Haitian leaders say the
number now is closer to 100,000. Haitians are spread throughout Broward,
principally in Fort Lauderdale, Pompano Beach, Lauderhill and Deerfield
Beach as well as Miramar, Pembroke Pines, Hallandale Beach and Coral
Springs. To get the word out, Fort Lauderdale has placed ads for police
officer positions in Haitian newspapers and on radio stations. They set
up booths at soccer matches that draw Haitians. They make recruiting
trips around the country, and recently sent a team of recruiters to
Baltimore, where minorities, including Haitians, took and passed the
oral and written test, Hurley said. Over the past year, Dejean's group
has been working with police to develop videotapes in Creole and English
instructing Haitians on the proper way to deal with police, and advising
police on how to deal with cultural differences in the Haitian
community. The group has organized several town hall meetings to smooth
out relations between Haitians and police. At all the meetings, police
took applications for officer positions and assured community members
they were working hard to hire Haitian officers. In the past three
years, at least two candidates who passed the written and oral tests for
officer positions have been turned away, Dejean said. Police said both
men failed polygraph tests, which disqualified them, and other
candidates scored higher on oral and written tests. ``It's difficult
enough just to get anyone to pass all the different testing procedures,
notwithstanding their ethnicity,'' said Sgt. Mitch Van Sant, who is in
charge of the police department's background investigations unit. One of
the high scorers, Frantz Petitpapa, is now an officer in Wilton Manors,
where his bosses praise him. ``He's very personable,'' Wilton Manors
Assistant Chief Elizabeth Gribbon said. `` He's great with the
community.'' ``I got hired by a good department,'' Petitpapa said. On
why he was turned down by Fort Lauderdale, ``I can't really comment,''
he said. ``Definitely, I think it's weird. And they need Haitian
officers.'' Fort Lauderdale requests help from Wilton Manors
occasionally when officers need a translator to speak Creole and

 Wilton Manors sends Petitpapa.

 ``He's very handy, not only for us, but for the adjoining agencies,''
Gribbon said. The Fort Lauderdale Police Department hired Valerie
Marzouka as a civilian liaison who speaks Creole and English. She was to
help smooth out relations between police and Haitians who complain of
police mistreatment. But Marzouka left after her first day on the job,
returning to her previous position as an advocate for victims of
domestic violence with North Miami Police. ``It was just a career
decision for me,'' said Marzouka, who said she needed more
 flexibility to return to school to pursue her doctorate. ``I was really
looking forward to working with [Fort Lauderdale]. They sounded like a
great department.'' Police said they plan to hire another candidate for
the liaison job as they continue their search for Haitian police
officers. ``We are looking for people that can get through our testing
process: Haitian, African-American, Anglo, it doesn't matter,'' Van Sant
said. ``We certainly strive to be more reflective of our community
makeup. However, we haven't been able to get those candidates to get
through the process.'' As for the success of other departments hiring
Haitian officers, Van Sant said: ``Everybody has their own standards. We
have certain standards that we have and we try and accommodate what we
can accommodate, but we're not going to let somebody in who is going to
be a questionable character, hopefully.'' The screening process involves
several layers of testing, including written and oral exams, a physical
agility test, a polygraph test, a psychological evaluation, a
 medical exam and a criminal background check. A candidate must have a
minimum overall testing score of 70, according to Fort Lauderdale police
applications. Petitpapa, hired by Wilton Manors in July 1999, scored an
81 three years ago on the Fort Lauderdale test. He was not hired because
other applicants scored higher, Van Sant said. ``He was just on the list
and they didn't get down to him,'' Van Sant said, adding that rarely has
he seen anyone with a score lower than 82 get past the application.
 Petitpapa applied for a position as a detention officer, but failed a
polygraph on the number of traffic citations -- 13 or 14, according to
Hurley -- he had received. Also, police found on a background check that
he had been arrested for driving with a suspended license, Hurley said.
Petitpapa says he didn't lie on the polygraph test. ``That's the last
thing I would try to hide because that's the police department,''
Petitpapa said. ``I know they have records of it.'' He said he can't
understand why Fort Lauderdale police did not hire him. ``If they really
wanted to hire a Haitian officer, then something minor like a traffic
citation wouldn't have stopped them,'' Petitpapa said. Jean Demergeau,
another Haitian applicant to the Fort Lauderdale police force, scored a
78 earlier this year. Demergeau also was processed for a position as a
detention officer. But he, too, failed a polygraph when asked whether he
had ever used drugs. ``I have never experimented, purchased, or sold any
illegal drugs,'' Demergeau said in a letter to Police Chief Michael
Brasfield. ``I believe that my character has been defamed by the
polygraph test.'' Hurley said the polygraph test is very sensitive, and
picks up even a hesitation in answering a question as possible
deception. Later, Demergeau passed a polygraph test -- including a
question about drug use -- with Miami-Dade Police, where he is in the
running for an officer position, according to Miami-Dade Police Lt. Bob
Johns. Demergeau said the department needs to try harder to bring
Haitians on board. ``We are here, we are looking for the positions, and
we are applying,'' Demergeau said. ``But for some reason, we are being