Visitors to Hollywood beach were treated to a bit of high-flying politics Sunday, compliments of the city's police union.
A small yellow plane with a banner reading "City of Hollywood high crime area. Thanks Chief Fernandez!" buzzed the coastline for about an hour Sunday, then flew over to the city's St. Patrick's Day parade.
Commissioner Patty Asseff was dumbfounded to hear where the banner came from — the city's own police union.
"I can't believe it's coming from our own department," she said. "Are they saying their own officers are not doing a good job? This has to come to an end. I'd really like to hear from the chief as to what the heck is going on."
Beth Maitlen, a real estate broker who lives in Hollywood, was also upset.
"All I saw in that banner was someone bashing my city," said Maitlen, who was worried clients might have seen it. "I don't see the benefit in bashing the entire city with negative advertising. It's astounding."
Police union president Jeff Marano made no apologies for the attack on Chief Frank Fernandez, who could not be reached for comment Sunday.
"Hollywood needs to get rid of the chief," Marano said.
Marano accused Fernandez, who's been on the job since August, of trying to malign the agency with an outside audit.
The audit — which Marano calls a "fiction novel" written by a hired gun — has turned up problems with the department's use-of-force policy, missing Internal Affairs files and forgotten rape kits.
On Sunday, Mayor Peter Bober defended the chief as trying to fix what's wrong with the troubled agency.
"The fact that the chief is trying to improve the department is something we should want, not something we should fight," Bober said. "The union's position is only going to backfire. The average resident is going to think the union is using childish tactics that are not going to help the city or the department."
City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark, the only person who can fire the chief, said Fernandez has her full support and slammed the "high crime" banner as an attack by a lone disgruntled union leader.
"It's not only untrue, but it's unprofessional and an insult to all of the hard-working police officers who are committed to making Hollywood safer," she said. "If you look at the crime stats, you will see they have gone down overall."
Commissioner Peter Hernandez said he was well aware of the growing dissension within the Hollywood Police Department and plans to bring it up at the next City Hall meeting on March 19.
"It's pretty clear the police union and the chief don't see eye to eye," he said. "The banner sends the wrong message to the public. But that's the message the union wants to send."
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