Friday, August 14, 2009

Sgt. Brent Raban reveals the true face of Palm Beach County's Sherrif Department: Despair, poverty allowed the Punisher to rule Belle Glade

"...Like a good batterer, I know the areas that hide the marks well." -Sgt. Brent Raban, Palm Beach County Sheriff, relocated to Royal Palm Beach

While Belle Glade is a ways from the Lake Worth Area, this case shows us that our entire County is increasingly stuck under the Sheriff's Department, putting us at risk of having cops like Sgt. Raban relocated to our community without having a say in the matter. In places where the City police were already crooked, corrupt, racist and violent (like Belle Glade and Pahokee), having less local control over law enforcement will not be a solution.

For now, the abusive Sgt. Brent Raban is relocated to Royal Palm Beach, another city recently taken-over by the Sheriff, where Deputy Eric Bethel in Royal Palm Beach killed Ruben DeBrosse.

If we are to have accountability from Law Enforcement, cities NEED to demand independent local Police Review Boards. Why should Royal Palm Beach be stuck with someone like Raban?!

The Palm Beach Post ran an article by journalist Andrew Marra about Sgt. Raban, entitled "Despair, poverty allowed the Punisher to rule Belle Glade", below are some selections from the story:

Many of the sheriff's deputies assigned to patrol this city did not want to be here. Neither did Sgt. Brent Raban.

Before he started walking Belle Glade's streets with his "PUNISHMENT" skullcap, before the droves of phoned complaints and the excessive-force investigations, before his boasts of beatings on Facebook and the people who called him the Punisher, Raban was a man with a grudge.

Like other deputies before him, he saw his transfer to Belle Glade as his own punishment for angering a supervisor.

He came to Belle Glade with a "chip on his shoulder," as he told detectives assigned to investigate his actions this year.

Indeed, the Glades is a region that many deputies consider to be a "punishment assignment," as a sheriff's captain who once oversaw the Belle Glade district explained to investigators. A region far removed from the homes and lives of most deputies, requiring high workloads and constant immersion in one of South Florida's poorest neighborhoods.

But when Raban got there, he found himself in an environment ripe for the sorts of excesses investigators say he and two subordinates began to take - a poor, predominantly black area with a deeply entrenched criminal element and a generally defeatist attitude about reporting bad run-ins with police.

"Everyone here's got a story about the cops," said James Smith, 33, who grew up in Belle Glade and lives in one of its poorest sections. "They will whup you. Trust me."

In an interview, Sheriff Ric Bradshaw disputed the characterization of the Glades as a land of exile for punished deputies, although he conceded that deputies are sometimes transferred there, as they are to other districts, after run-ins with supervisors or colleagues...

An internal investigation released last week found he altered his uniform and wore a skullcap that read PUNISHMENT as he walked the streets with two of his deputies, both also condemned by the internal affairs report.

He and deputies Gregory Lynch and Michael Woodside bragged on their Facebook Web pages about beating suspects and made racially tinged comments, the report said. Raban attempted to amass a crew of like-minded deputies from other districts.

Raban was the subject of frequent complaints, but no one would file a written statement against him, his former supervisor, Capt. Simon Barnes, told investigators. In Belle Glade, the captain said, rough treatment by law enforcement is considered "business as usual."

The article also includes links to Raban's Facebook page and other articles:

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Copwatch group will be monitoring Sheriff at Saturday FPL protest, citing concerns of civil liberties violations and distrust of Bradshaw

For Immediate Release Sept. 18, 2008

Contacts:, website:


Palm Beach County-
The Lake Worth Area Copwatch group (LWAC) will accompany environmental protesters who have declared a return to the site of controversial FPL power plant construction in Loxahatchee to protest on September 20. In February of this year, Palm Beach County Sheriff arrested 26 people attempting to halt construction of the plant. The protests cited concerns over dangerous and illegal operations occurring on site. LWAC is concerned about intimidation and abuse by police officers, which they say may amount to violations of constitutional rights and suppression of community participation in such serious issues.

According to recent Palm Beach Post article, Bradshaw said deputies will be present "to provide them [protesters] with a safe environment to do their protest and their march," Bradshaw said. "Safely do what you're going to do, and don't disrupt the public's right to use the roadway." In February, Sheriff Bradshaw made statements discrediting the abuses alleged by protesters prior to any investigation of the matter. Several trials in the case are still pending. Protest organizers say they are reluctant to trust Bradshaw.

Activists with LWAC, several of whom were part of the February protest, say they observed an excessive presence of Sheriff officers that caused traffic to be delayed along Southern (which was blamed on the protest obstructing the entrance road to Palm Beach Aggregates and FPL construction). The police displayed K-9 dogs and crowd control weapons to intimidate demonstrators. Allegations of mistreatment followed the arrests.

In August, following a trial of arrested FPL protesters; the Sheriff was observed and videotaped by LWAC in front of the County Courthouse training in riot gear to suppress protests in a similar fashion as they did on February 18. Several of the witnesses who videotaped this training also experienced the Sheriff's intimidation and abuses in February. One witness says he felt that the training seemed as though it was intended to be seen by the activists on trial that day: "It was another attempt to intimidate people from standing up for the environment; a blatant waste of taxpayers money to further threaten us."

"It is as if they have more allegiance to companies like Florida Power and Light than to those of us standing up for the public interest" said the witness, preferring to remain anonymous.

See link of Courthouse training videos from August 12, 2008:

LWAC's mission is to monitor police activity, on both a street and a policy level, with a focus on: police brutality and killings; racial and political profiling; suppression of constitutional rights; and violation of grassroots community activists.

Along with the Sheriff misconduct against FPL protesters, LWAC is also following several other recent cases, including: the fatal Sheriff shooting of 16-year-old Ruben Debrosse of Royal Palm Beach; the Riviera Beach Police profiling and assault of another 16-year-old, Laquan Wright, who was admittedly "the wrong person"; and the West Palm Beach beating of Pablo Gilberto Valenzuela who was handcuffed at the time of assault by several officers.

The group was initially formed to take a critical stance on the sheriff merger with the City of Lake Worth, citing on the loss of local control over law enforcement resulting in less accountability over cost and style of policing. Read the full statement:

LWAC participants were also in Minnesota earlier this month documenting police violence against protesters. See link of RNC protest footage taken by LWAC:

For more info on Copwatch efforts around the US:


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fatal police shooting of 16-year-old Ruben Debrosse raising more questions than answers

by K. Chandler
Westside Gazette
Originally posted 8/20/2008

‘How was it physically possible for Debrosse to not only shift the Kia from reverse into drive, but also accelerate the car forward & hit a pole after being shot in the head?’

Three weeks after the fatal police shooting of 16-year-old Ruben Debrosse of Royal Palm Beach, the case is raising more questions than it is answering. Now, eyewitness accounts are surfacing that appear to differ substantially from the official police version of events.

According to Attorney Val Rodriguez, who is representing the Debrosse family, a number of eyewitnesses have come forward, including two women from Pahokee who said they witnessed the entire incident while awaiting help for their disabled car after they came out of the Regal Royal Palm Beach 18 Cinema on North State Road 7. So close was the women’s car, in fact, that it literally had to be moved out of the crime scene parameters.

Both women confirmed that they saw a sheriff’s deputy follow the decedent’s car (an alleged stolen Kia) into the parking lot of the plaza without the patrol car’s blue lights flashing, after which it appeared that Debrosse’s car accidentally bumped into the deputy’s vehicle behind him.

Then, according to the women’s story — which Atty. Rodriguez described as being both consistent and believable (the women produced movie theatre stubs to verify their presence at the theatre) – Debrosse, who had no prior criminal record, apparently tried to move forward but was hemmed in by another sheriff’s patrol car which had arrived on the scene and was in front of the Kia.

Rodriguez stated that the women told him the officer (later identified as Sheriff’s Deputy Eric Bethel) appeared to be very angry that the youth, a sophomore at Royal Palm Beach High School, bumped into his squad car. Subsequently, Bethel got out and repeatedly screamed at Debrosse: Get out of the car now!” (It might be noted here that the patrol car sustained little or no damage and was put right back into service.)

Per the women’s account, the officer was never in any danger as the car was moving awayfrom him at a slow rate of speed, not toward him. It was at this point that Debrosse was hit twice in the head and back with at least one shot going through the window behind the driver’s seat, by Bethel, who was standing beside the left rear bumper.

Rodriguez and a lot of others are having trouble buying into the notion that Bethel had reason to fear for his life. What bothers Rodriguez the most, however, is the officer’s contention that Debrosse was trying to back his car into him, causing the deputy to shoot. By several accounts, the youth slumped over the steering wheel after being shot in the vicinity of the left ear, raising the question, ‘How could it have been physically possible for Debrosse to not only shift the Kia from reverse into drive, but then also accelerate the car forward (which is the condition the car was found in) and hit a pole after being shot in the head?’

“By law an officer cannot shoot a fleeing suspect,” noted Rodriguez. The only way it can be justified is if it is determined that the officer believed he was in fear for his life from a car careening into him.

Describing the case as one of the “saddest” he’s seen in the 15 years he’s been litigating civil rights cases, Rodriguez noted that had the officer turned on his flashing blue lights to identify himself, given that it was dark, the decedent would have more than likely gotten out of his car and cooperated with authorities. Ironically, Debrosse had recently received a $1,000 scholarship for being the “most outstanding cadet” at the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office Eagle Academy, a youth intervention program that his mother had voluntarily enrolled him in to build character.

Rodriguez also took umbrage with reports portraying the Kia as stolen. “The fact of the matter is that it’d been reported as an ‘over stay’ by the car rental agency for only one week.”

Rodriguez also emphatically stressed that it was crucial for State Attorney Barry Krischer to recuse himself from this case as Krischer is expected to begin working for the Sheriff’s Department upon the conclusion of his term of office in November, raising a serious ethical conflict of interest.

Story of Laquan Wright: "Teen Explains Alleged Police Brutality"

H.S. Football Player's Jaw Wired Shut After Incident

POSTED: 7:32 pm EDT August 11, 2008

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- A high school football player has accused a Riviera Beach police officer of mistaking him for a suspect and slamming him to the ground.

Laquan Wright's dreams of playing high school football this year remain doubtful. The teenager is a junior at Palm Beach Gardens High School, where he was supposed to play as a starter on the football team in his junior year.

WPBF News 25's Ted White reported that the 16-year-old described in a complaint to the Riviera Beach Police Department what happened on the night of Aug. 2 as he headed to his grandfather's home on Congress Avenue.

Wright said he was walking down the street when a Riviera Beach police officer pulled up, turned on his flashing lights, got out of the car, picked him up and slammed him on the ground. Wright suffered a broken jaw which is now wired shut.

Wright's mother, Lakesha Wiggins, said she has taught her son to be respectful to police, saying she couldn't believe what happened next.

"He told the officer that he had ID in his pocket. He went in his pocket got his ID looked at and (the officer) just pretty much said, 'OK we got the wrong person' and left him on the ground, got in his patrol car with the lights off and just pulled off," Wiggins said.

Wright was treated at Columbia Hospital. The family filed a complaint the next day at the Riviera Beach Police Department. The family's attorney called the incident a clear case of police brutality.

The family's attorney said he is reaching out to the state attorney's office to investigate. The attorney said he has another client who was the victim of a similar incident in the city in January.

A city representative issued a statement Monday afternoon that, in part, states, "The Riviera Beach Police Department investigates allegations made against any of its members. The investigative process is thorough and has worked well."

The representative said the city cannot comment on open internal affairs investigations.

Copyright 2008 by All rights reserved.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Loss of local control and accountability over law enforcement:

The merger of Lake Worth’s Police with the County Sheriff reminds me of an old axiom from American revolutionary Tom Paine about government, applying particularly to its law enforcement: “...even in its best state, [it] is a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.”

Having direct oversight over that armed patrols of the government is a fundamental right and responsibility of the public. Losing access to that right is a clear indicator of a slip away from the democracy that we are supposed to be striving towards as a society. The immediate reality of that is very likely to be felt in our neighborhoods, especially among our neighbors who already have the least access to the public process, specifically: new immigrants, youth, and all lower-income residents. When the Lake Worth City Commission requested information regarding statistics for misconduct to decide on the merger, the information was denied.
The sad reality of the picture couldn’t have been painted more clearly than it was this weekend in Royal Palm Beach, where Sheriff Deputy, Eric Bethel, shot and killed 16-year-old Ruben Charles DeBrosse during a traffic stop involving a stolen car. Bethel, a former Marine, joined the Palm Beach Sheriff when the Royal Palm Police were absorbed by the County in 2006. It appears very clear that the shooting could have been avoided, as the officer was not in immediate danger for his life. The punishment for auto theft is not death; the Sheriff is not a jury.

Where the Town of Royal Palm may have been able to urge thorough investigation and bring grievances over the matter to the Town two years ago, they are now forced to deal with the issue at the County level, where accountability is far out of reach from the public (we can take two County Commissioners in prison for corruption as evidence).

While Police may be a part of dealing with crime in Lake Worth they not the solution to the safety in our neighborhoods. Safety is more than the absence of criminals; it is the presence of a healthy, active and involved community—a community where people have access to what they need and opportunities to grow connected with the place they live. Merging with the police is the OPPOSITE of this holistic approach to safety. It has been made clear that this merger will actually strain the budget, increasing taxes and likely forcing the City to cut community services that it provides as well as the wages of other workers in the City. It also cuts the City out from negotiating wages with our local law enforcement.

"We always want to have a military solution to everything or police solution to everything. Folks, we're going to break ourselves financially trying to find solution to everything with military, with police," said Javier Del Sol. (Sun-Sentinel, 8/4/08)

The Lake Worth Police Department already has a history of its own in misconduct, profiling, corruption, and brutality, which we have been addressing for years at the City level. And we have had enough trouble keeping control over the police budget at the City level. Now, all of these factors will be further from the hands of our neighborhoods. The County, which includes the Sheriff Department, has become famous across the State for corruption and misconduct. There is no reason that we would expect accountability from them.
With this merger decision we are at risk of moving further from democracy and closer towards a Police State. Once again we, the public, must remain vigilant through this terrible decision that has been forced on us from above out of the self-interest of law enforcement and the facade of safety for the middle-class. And now our responsibility has broadened, as now we must take part in addressing the Sheriff’s decisions and actions.

Today, we demand immediate investigation of Sheriff Deputy Eric Bethel, and justice for the family of Ruben DeBrosse. And we send a clear message to Ric Bradshaw: while we lament the merger, we will not be silenced by it. We will stand against corruption, police violence and injustice; our claim of democracy demands this from us.

Another famous American, Ben Franklin, put it this way: "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

[written by panagioti tsolkas, Lake Worth Resident, member of the Palm Beach Global Justice Group and co-chair of the Palm Beach County Environmental Coalition. He can be contacted at]