By Hank McCoy
The Coral Springs city commission was met with a vocal public debate over approval of police training equipment, new firearms, and less-lethal shotguns.
On July 15, commissioners and city staff met to discuss a range of topics; however, the allocation of federal grant money was the main point of contention between the residents who called in to speak at the virtual meeting.
The money, totaling just under $29,000, was set to go to the Coral Springs Police Department to purchase training equipment, setting up a new criminal report database, new handguns, and less-lethal shotguns that shoot beanbags.
The public was split into two camps: one group urged the commission to vote yes on approval of federal grant money for the police equipment, voicing their displeasure to what they perceived as an attempt to defund the police. Group two urged the commission to vote no because of their concern that the police department would be essentially purchasing rubber bullets with the grant money.
However, there was no call to defund the police department at the meeting, and rubber bullets were not on the agenda to be purchased with the grant money.
Lisa Johnston, a 40-year resident, expressed her concern over the idea of cutting the police department’s budget, although there were no cuts planned for the meeting, and said those who own homes should be heard because they pay the taxes in the city. She claimed residents are leaving Coral Springs, and that she too would leave if she weren’t a business owner.
Johnston said that although many people may pay rent in the city, they don’t pay the taxes. She explained that she is happy to pay the “big taxes” because of the quality of service that she has received during her time in Coral Springs, but that she hasn’t seen that quality service as of late.
“Everyone has some new ideas, but they have forgotten it’s the homeowners — we are the ones that pay the bills,” Johnston said.
Resident Kadeem Rowe, 26, who organized a recent police brutality protest in the city, spoke about the perception the black community would have if these purchases were passed.
“If black people in the community feel the police are extra militarized or forceful with them, I don’t think that passing something like this. In this climate, would be a good response,” Rowe explained.
Coral Springs Police Chief Parry said, “There’s a lot of misinformation out there. Misinformation leads to misunderstandings and bad assumptions.”
Chief Parry explained just over $14k of the federal grant money was signed off on in 2018. With the exception of three percent going to set up the NIBRS (National Institute Based Reporting System), the rest would go towards converter kits that allow police to convert their side arms from shooting actual bullets to paintball bullets for simulation training purposes.
The rest of the money, which was signed off on in 2019, would be used to replace handguns and purchase “less-lethal shotguns,” which shoot bean bags, not rubber bullets. Explaining that if you take away less-lethal shotguns, they may get into a situation where they have to use real bullets.
He said the purchase of “less-lethal shotguns” could be the reason for citizens’ concern over rubber bullet purchases.
“I look at these things not as militarization but as buying items that help us help you,” Chief Parry said.
Commissioner Joshua Simmons, a vocal supporter of the protests on police brutality, spoke on the mood of people in the country and the yearning for change. He explained how organizations should change with the times, and the way we did something 30 or 40 years ago may need to be updated to coincide with current trends, and it’s no different with policing.
“Now is Coral Springs like a lot of other police agencies around the country? No, they are not. Have they had their issues? Yes, they have,” Simmons explained, “I always find it interesting when people feel an organization or group is above criticism. Criticisms, complaints, and suggestions help improve organizations.”
The federal grant money ultimately was approved unanimously by the commission.
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- Hank McCoy is a writer and journalist covering music, politics, and culture on his blog Hank’s Luncheonette, as well as currently working on publishing his first novel. Hank grew up in Parkland and graduated from FAU before moving to Chicago where he worked in the music industry as an artist and talent booker when he wasn’t throwing people out of punk bars. Hank recently moved back to South Florida after living overseas in Berlin while he traveled to Europe.
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