10 Years Gone


Today marks 10 years since the death of Jerrod Miller.

Today also marks the anniversary of Trayvon Martin’s death in Sanford, Florida.

After witnessing the protests in Ferguson, Mo., and New York City this year, I am grateful that we were able to keep the peace in Delray Beach in 2005. That we were able to do so does not mean that the shooting did not cause searing pain in our community, it most assuredly did. And still does.

There is not a day that goes by that I don’t think of Jerrod and his family. He was the same age as my daughter when he died and his loss resonated with my family in a very personal and deep way. I often see his face in dreams and I still pray for him and his family.

I’m often asked why we didn’t spiral out of control when Jerrod, 15, was shot by an off-duty rookie police officer while driving a car outside a school dance at the Delray Full Service Center.

There is no short or simple answer to that question, I’m just grateful that we were able to grieve and communicate in a way that did not tear us apart or hurt others.

There is no playbook to turn too when tragedies like this occur. But there are certain values that communities can embrace  that can help when tragedies occur.

Former Police Chief Rick Overman used to talk about building a reservoir of goodwill in the community. He would tell me and others that in his line of work, it was not a matter of  if bad things would happen, but a matter of when. He wanted his department –and his city– to have a reservoir of good will to draw upon when tragedy would strike.

So community policing is not just a feel good PR exercise. It’s an effective strategy for officers to connect with the people they are sworn to protect and serve. Relationships between law enforcement and communities are critical. If you don’t have a good one, all bets are off when bad things happen and they always happen.

We tend to focus on pensions and wages when we talk about police these days. But the plain truth of the matter is we would not have the Delray that we know and most of us love if we did not have a very, very good and effective police department. In order for people to invest and take risks on businesses, development projects or even buying a home in a community they first have to feel safe.

The Delray Police Department made our success possible. That is not to say that we don’t have problems: we do. We suffer from too much crime, drug addiction and other immense challenges. And this is not to say that we have a perfect PD. But make no mistake, this not an easy place to be a police officer and we have been blessed with some great ones.

As a result, today I feel safe downtown. And when I moved here I didn’t.

Community policing,, traditional law enforcement, great detective work and special programs such as Kids and Cops, Toy Drives etc., helped us enormously in the run up to and in the aftermath of Feb. 26. 2005. So did personal relationships between officers and community leaders and between elected officials and members of the community.

I was blessed to have served with a very good city commission. We got along. What a concept.

They supported me and you need that support;  because when you sit in the mayor’s chair during shootings and hurricanes the buck stops with you. It can be a lonely and overwhelming job but it helps to know that people have your back. It’s not all ribbon cuttings and chicken dinners.

But you can’t be effective on your own. You need a team. The entire commission and many key people on city staff stepped up and kept the lines of communication with the community open. Commissioner Alberta McCarthy especially–did yeoman’s work during this critical time.

So today, on the 10th anniversary of a very sad day in Delray, I remember Jerrod and his family. And I pray for our city and for all those who live here and all those who protect and serve.



  1. I remember it well. Such a sad time. What I remember most that we had started race relations training before the event which helped diffuse the situation to some extent and we had leaders who had made connections with the minority communities well before the event. We need to do more of that now, as this has not beena focus recently .

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