In an award ceremony for exemplary law enforcement agents, Tamarac Commissioner Elberg “Mike” Gelin, who is Black, gave Deputy Joshua Gallardo the award he truly deserved. The first-ever public ceremony to honor outstanding deputies in Broward County took place in Tamarac, Fl., a city about 15 miles northwest of Fort Lauderdale.
According to The Washington Post, Gallardo received the “Deputy of the Month” award for his role in the apprehension of a known member of a Salvadoran gang. The man was wanted by the authorities for murder. City officials including Mayor Michelle J. Gomez lauded the deputy for his heroism as he accepted the commendation for his bravery.
As Gallardo proudly accepted his award, Commissioner Gelin took a moment to remind the deputy of an encounter the two men shared four years prior.
“It’s good to see you again,” Commissioner Gelin said to Deputy Gallardo as reported in the Washington Post. “You probably don’t remember me, but you’re the police officer who falsely arrested me four years ago. You lied on the police report. I believe you’re a rogue police officer. You’re a bad police officer, and you don’t deserve to be here.”
In 2015, the Tamarac city commissioner was at a local Starbucks when he saw two homeless men brawling in the street. Gelin attempted to break up the altercation and police were called. Three officers arrived including Gallardo. Gelin recorded the incident on video. As bystanders crowded the scene, Gelin was asked to stop recording and to leave. According to Gelin, he was the only person asked to do so.
At that moment, Gallardo arrested Gelin for resisting an officer without violence. The crime is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable with a one-year jail sentence or 12 months probation, and a $1000 fine.
The arrest report, written by Gallardo, contradicted the events that transpired at the Starbucks. The Broward County deputy wrote that Gelin had approached from behind and failed to listen to the commands he gave Gelin to disperse from the scene. He also added that he had given Gelin an alternative place to go so there would be space when rescue services arrived.
In an interview with Tamarac Talk, he recounted the interaction between him and Deputy Gallardo stating, “For some reason, he came over to me, told me to stop recording with my phone. I asked him why I needed to stop recording, and he gave me an answer, and then he told me that I needed to back up.”
“The arrest was a traumatic incident for me. I was disrespected, humiliated, embarrassed, and spent nine hours in jail. I spent a significant amount of time and money finding a good attorney and dealing with the court system,” said Commissioner Gelin told Tamarac Talk, “Almost daily, we see accounts of African-Americans being arrested or killed without cause. One in three black males can be expected to be arrested and incarcerated in their lifetimes.”
View the Gelin arrest report.
According to CBS News Miami, Prosecutors dropped the charges against Gelin citing “it has been determined a strong likelihood of conviction is not present as images in the video do not support conviction.”
In a memo that is closed to the public, the prosecution also disclosed that Gallardo’s account of comments allegedly made by Gelin wasn’t corroborated either. However, the memo did note that parts of the video were inaudible.
Ironically, the Sun-Sentinel interviewed Commissioner Gelin during the election for the appointed position in 2018. He was asked if he had ever been arrested. After his full account of the incident which transpired between him and Gallardo, the publication opted not to publish that portion of the interview.
DiversityInc reached out to the editorial team at the Sun-Sentinel about the omission of the arrest from the voter candidate interview. They declined to comment only offering that they asked many questions of some 200 candidates and some things weren’t published.
Many city officials lambasted Gelin’s decision to confront Gallardo about the incident at that moment. Fellow City Commissioner Julie Fishman responded to the confrontation via her Facebook page.
Fishman alluded to Gelin’s behavior as being “unethical” and even insinuated that his intent to address the trauma of being arrested and falsely accused of a crime was opportunistic. She also failed to address Deputy Gallardo’s despicable actions which prompted the emotional response from Gelin.
Tamarac Mayor Michelle J. Gomez expressed her shock and disbelief of Gelin’s statement.
“Completely shocked. This was not something we were expecting,” Gomez told ABC Miami station WPLG. “It was supposed to be a wonderful morning. We were giving the awards for the BSO deputies of the month. It was supposed to be a feel-good time.”
She also didn’t acknowledge Deputy Gallardo’s falsification of the police report.
Although there are those who found Gelin’s actions inappropriate, he received an outpouring of love and support for his courage.
Law enforcement agents should be celebrated and commended for risking their lives on a daily basis. In the same vein, those officers who do not uphold the law and their oath should be held accountable for their actions as well.
Tamarac is the 41st largest city in Florida. The population is roughly 65% white, 28% Black, 2% Asian, 3% mixed race and lastly 2% other ethnic and racial groups. The Hispanic population which does not include race is about 28%.