Protecting A Special Culture

Delray Citizens for Delray Police co-founder Perry DonFrancisco has been supporting our local department for decades.

I’ve been fascinated by the Delray Beach Police Department since I discovered this town in 1987.

I’ve seen a lot of legendary officers come and go, personally know 8 of the 17 people who have served as chief and spent many hours on “ride alongs” which taught me a lot about the city that has been my home for 35 years.

There was a time when I knew most, if not all, the police officers in Delray. Those days are long gone.

I’m no longer current, but I still feel connected to the department and take great pride in supporting the men and women who risk their lives every day to protect and serve.

Diane and I went to the 18th annual Delray Citizens for Delray Police Awards Banquet at the Opal Resort recently and we had a great time. My company, CDS International Holdings, is a regular sponsor, because we believe in supporting the men and women who make our town safe to live, work and play.

The annual banquet recognizes the outstanding police work being done in our community and in a world where law enforcement can go unrecognized or worse, it’s nice to see an organization take the time to honor public servants.

As a result, we saw a rookie honored for his work protecting us from drunk drivers and learned about a detective who solves crimes at an impressive rate (he happens to be the son of a retired captain).

We also got to hear from Chief Russ Mager, someone I have known for years. It’s nice to see a home-grown leader climb the ranks to lead an organization that has done so much for Delray Beach.

Readers of this blog know how much I respect our Police Department. I believe– in my bones— that their hard work made it possible for Delray Beach to turn the corner and make a municipal comeback that has turned heads from coast to coast.

When I came to Delray Beach in the summer of 1987, it was a very different city from the one we enjoy today.

Downtown was down and out…the crime rate was awful and entire neighborhoods were open air drug markets.

As a young journalist, it was fascinating for me to shadow detectives, observe midnight warrant sweeps and follow the Tact Team (known on the street at the “jump out crew) into crack houses where I saw all sorts of crazy things—senior citizens held hostage by dealers who used their homes for cooking crack, people who burned off their fingertips holding pipes and kids as young as 7 used as “look outs” to spot the cops before they could disrupt drug sales.

I was reminded of those days recently due to the news coverage of Duane Owen’s execution June 15 for the brutal murders of Karen Slattery, a 14-year-old babysitter and Georgianna Worden, a 38-year-old mother of two who was slain by Owen in Boca almost 40 years ago.

I saw archival footage of detectives I knew, and I saw recent interviews with the officers tasked with finding and ultimately taking Owen off the streets. I was reminded how special these officers were, how invested they were in solving the crime.

Indeed, several of the now long retired detectives travelled to north Florida to support the Slattery family.

There was Lighthouse Point Chief Ross Licata standing behind Karen’s sister at a post execution press conference, flanked by retirees Bob Stevens, John Evans, Jeff Messer and Scott Lunsford. Seeing these fine and brave men standing side by side with Karen’s sister, herself now a Deputy Sheriff in Monroe County reminded me of how lucky we are to have such a high caliber department.

Chief Licata was a detective in the 80s when Karen was murdered. He remained close to the family and served as a mentor to Karen’s sister who was in the 5th grade when the tragedy happened. He and other Delray officers inspired her to become a law enforcement officer. Isn’t that amazing?

Out of unspeakable horror comes the gift of care and concern.

I saw my old friend Rick Lincoln interviewed on Channel 5. He was a detective assigned to the case and it left an indelible mark. He talked about Delray in the 80s as a place that had its share of violent crime, but nothing like what he saw when he was called to the scene of Slattery’s murder.

Rick would rise through the ranks in Delray and become interim chief before becoming number two at the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office and chief in Lantana. He was a fine officer and a good man who taught me, a young reporter, some of the ins and outs that I needed to do my job.

Little did I know that one day, those lessons learned “riding along” would help me as a policy maker in Delray.

I came to the job of commissioner and then mayor with relationships with the men and women who were on the front lines of making our city safe for investment and progress.

So, walking into the doors of the Opal Grand and seeing retirees I knew and admired—Ralph Phillips, Tom Judge, Tom Tustin—and learning about the accomplishments of current officers felt good.
We are in good hands. And that means a lot to our quality of life.

I was also thrilled to see four city commissioners in attendance, as well as a county commissioner. It’s important for elected officials to support our officers, important to show pride in their work.

As I mentioned, I don’t know many officers these days. But I still feel connected to our Police Department… Fire-Rescue and City Hall too.

The Police Banquet is a connector. I hope you go next year. You’ll be glad you did.






  1. Randy Smith says

    Jeff, your record for supporting our Police department is well known and thanks for this reminder. Is there a way to donate to the Delray force?

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Thanks, Randy. The best vehicle is Delray Citizens for Delray Police. Appreciate your kind words and your support. 1045 East Atlantic Avenue #300, Attn: Perry.
      Delray Beach, FL 33483

  2. Yes Jeff, the Delray Beach Police Department is special, and you are part of what made it special. Your support as a reporter, as a commissioner, and as Mayor helped more than you know. The PD was and is a leader in programs that many agencies adopted over the years. Community policing is extremely important these days and the PD has stayed involved in the community. Lets hope that the PD continues to be a leading agency into the future.

    • Jeff Perlman says

      Fred, I cherish your comments. They mean so much coming from you, someone I deeply respect. Your vision and work with Johnny was remarkable. We sat with Love at the banquet and it brought back a flood of memories that inspired me to write about the PD. Thank you for your service and your friendship. Jeff.

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