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I’m no longer current, but I still feel connected to the department and take great pride in supporting the men and women who risk their lives every day to protect and serve.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





Delray’s Finest

From left:  David Weatherspoon, Thomas Mitchell and Javaro Sims

From left: David Weatherspoon, Thomas Mitchell and Javaro Sims have a combined 75 years of service in Delray.

We attended the 13th annual Delray Citizens for Delray Police Awards Dinner Friday and I have to tell you about it.
I have gone to several of these banquets over the years and Celsius, a company I’m involved with is a proud sponsor.
The event honors officers and employees with more than 20 years of service to our city. This year’s honorees; Assistant Chief Javaro Sims, Captain Tommy Mitchell and Lt. David Weatherspoon combined have over 75 years of service to Delray. All three are exceptional officers who have made a deep and lasting impact in our city. The event also honors the department’s Officer of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Supervisor of the Year and recognizes monthly award winners for the previous year.
The event serves as a fundraiser for the non profit Delray Citizens for Delray Police which, under the leadership of Perry Don Francisco, has supported the officers and their families for 30 years providing scholarships to the children of officers and purchasing equipment not covered by the department’s budget. It’s good to see Perry, an all time Delray great, remain involved in a city he helped put on the map 10 years after selling the land mark Boston’s on the Beach.
It’s also nice to see retirees from near and far return to honor colleagues and connect with the next generation of officers.
I’ve long contended that our Police Department is the unsung hero of Delray’s remarkable renaissance. The hard work and innovative policing strategies employed by the department made it safe for families and investment. It’s a debt we need to remember and their task doesn’t seem to get easier. This is a challenging city to protect and serve.
We had an opportunity to reconnect with some legendary officers from the past: Chuck Jeroloman, Scott Lunsford, Marc Woods, Tom Judge, Ed Flynn among many others and its really special to see that some of those officers have sons who are now serving with distinction at the department. The Police Department took this city back and the new generation of officers are tasked with fresh challenges. Their jobs are not only essential, but one could argue that our very viability as a community relies on their work and their ability to partner with the community.
The three officers honored all came to the department in the early 90s, a time when Delray was beginning to make the turn. In 1993, Delray won its first All America City Award and soon after Florida Trend would name Delray the “best run town in Florida.”
Civic pride was building, people were working together, the political leadership was aligned and city hall was stable after a very rocky prior decade. We were on our way, but much more work remained to be done.
Javaro Sims was a local guy who was passionate about service and the community, especially the youth. A former pro football player, teacher and Olympic caliber sprinter, Javaro was a great fit for Delray. He raced up the ranks becoming Assistant Chief in 2014.
Captain Mitchell has been an officer for 30 years, 26 in Delray. A former NYPD officer, Tommy has worked in a variety of roles from patrol and investigations to vice, intelligence and narcotics. A passionate Yankee fan, Tommy urges young officers to train hard, be safe and back each other up.
Lt. Weatherspoon is a home grown officer born and raised right here.
He was also the department’s first African American K-9 officer who started at the department in 1993 after a stint in the Army. After leaving K-9 he returned to community patrol. In 2006, he led the creation of the Problem Oriented Policing unit which requires officers to approach issues at their root and find innovative ways to solve problems. The program has been a great success.
David is a charismatic guy, with a warm smile and a wonderful family. His relationships in the community are strong, genuine and hugely valuable.
He’s just a solid guy. The kind you want to build around.
Chief Jeff Goldman also honored Officer Joseph Grammatico as “Officer of the Year.”
Known for his productivity, Grammatico racked up 136 arrests in 2015 and Chief Goldman gives him lots of credit for reducing Part One crimes by 8.5% in 2015.
An adherent of “intelligence led policing” Grammatico focuses on active offenders in the community who were committing a disproportionate amount of crime. By removing these prolific criminals from neighborhoods, Officer Grammatico was able to significantly improve quality of life for citizens and business owners.
The department’s employee of the year is Dawn Terrizzi who won an award named after long time employee and standout Patricia Taylor. Dawn is a support services secretary and has worked for the department for 12 years. But that hardly tells her story.
After her family was touched by a homicide, Dawn became a passionate advocate for people in similar circumstances. She volunteers for a slew of victim services agencies and causes including the Palm Beach chapter of Parents of Murdered Children Support Group. She is also active in local food pantries and food drives. Chief Goldman describes her as “an amazing woman”.  Indeed.
Just a small taste of what our department and indeed our city  has to offer.