South Florida is a not only one of the best hot spots for spring breakers in the United States, it is also a place where the sunshine and availability of clean showers at many public parks make it a safe haven for people who have had the misfortune of becoming homeless.  Homelessness is something that makes you turn away as you drive down the city streets of Fort Lauderdale where mostly every intersection has someone walking up and down near the traffic lights with a sign of their misfortune in the hopes that you will give them a donation.  Fort Lauderdale in Broward County is a sought-after venue for wealthy vacationers along with the spring break crowds but living here full time has its burdens with the high costs of housing.  A Harvard University study from 2018 found that the South Florida area including Fort Lauderdale is the most cost-burdened area in the entire country where residents spend more than 30% of their incoming on housing.  The biggest reasons why 2,500 people in Broward County are homeless is because of the lack of affordable housing coupled with job losses.

Homeless at risk for police abuse.

Homeless people are an “at risk” class due to economic disadvantages and are partially covered in the biased-based profiling policies of the police departments Nationwide, but often we read news headlines about the abuse these people take at the hands of the police in their communities.  A few years ago, a police officer was accused of police brutality for knocking a homeless man to the ground and slapping him.  The officer was given a brief suspension for his wanton disregard for the hopeless situation Mr. LeClair was facing when he further disrespected him by physically assaulting him.  The good news for the victim in this account is that along with the suspension of the officer, however short, he did receive a financial award that allowed him to secure a place to live in another state.

Homelessness addressed by combining tactics that measure importance of arrest versus help to avoid it.

Fort Lauderdale is one of the cities that is combining tactics that will help the people who are homeless, and reduce the number of arrests they have.  Being arrested makes it even harder, once the financial burden is removed, to find a home if you have a police record.  The city does have regulations that prohibit sleeping or storing belongings on public property like the many beautiful parks and beaches available, and restricts outdoor programs that cater to feeding the homeless, and it is against the law to beg for money at busy intersections.

Police policy 511 addressing alternatives to arrest procedures for homeless.

Policy 511 of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department Standard Operating Procedures covers activities related to encounters with homeless persons, stating that: Fort Lauderdale Police Personnel are sensitive to the needs and rights of the homeless population. To establish procedures helping guide officers during casual contacts and arrest situation contacts with homeless individuals, and reaffirm that being homeless is not a crime.

It is the policy of the Fort Lauderdale Police Department for all personnel to provide appropriate law enforcement services to the entire community while protecting the rights, dignity and personal property of the homeless by policy, rules, regulations and practices.  An officer may make a reasonable inquiry to make the determination of a person being homeless through casual contact when any time, and for any reason, police officers may approach a homeless person who has not been observed engaging in any criminal conduct, to advise him or her of shelters, services, or assistance which are currently available. The officer may also call for the assistance of Homeless Outreach personnel if available. The homeless person may or may not accept the advice or referral, or may even walk away from the area before the arrival of outreach personnel. Proactively providing referrals may get some of the people to safe shelters where crimes will not be committed on them or by them.  There are hotlines to call regarding homeless support.

Arresting homeless people last resort.

Arrests of all persons including those defined as homeless shall comply with Florida Law, Municipal Ordinances and Department policies and procedures.  If a police officer observes a homeless person(s) engaged in criminal activity, when practical and prudent to do so, an alternative to a physical arrest shall be used. Department Policy 501.2 – Alternatives to Arrest, lists the various alternatives available.  When encountering a homeless person who has committed a misdemeanor law violation and the continued freedom of the individual would not result in a breach of the peace or a more serious crime, police officers are encouraged to offer services when available in lieu of physical arrest. It must be recognized that such a referral is contingent on the voluntary agreement of the homeless person to accept such referral. Officers using one of the alternative facilities listed in Department Policy 501.2 shall comply with the intake procedures of the chosen organization.

Call an Attorney.

There are various federal and state laws that insure remedy to individuals who have suffered the negative effects of police brutality.  If you feel you have been a victim of biased-based profiling due to your homelessness situation or have had excessive force used on you by Fort Lauderdale Police, you should seek professional legal assistance with the Law Offices of Oscar Syger,who may help you file a claim to see if you can sue for damages. Damages may include hospital/medical expenses; emotional distress including depression and anxiety; loss of enjoyment of life; physical pain and suffering; and loss of love and companionship due to a death or serious injury caused by police brutality through biased-based profiling and excessive force.

Oscar Syger Law

(954) 862-2205
[email protected]
9000 Sheridan St.
Pembroke Pines, Florida 33024




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