Supporters of Hollywood's top cop say he's here to stay

Don't mess with our police chief.

That seemed to be the collective message coming from City Hall on Wednesday, 10 days after union leader Jeff Marano arranged for a plane to buzz the beach and downtown Hollywood with a banner screaming: "Hollywood a high crime area. Thanks Chief Fernandez!"

Marano told the Sun Sentinel his goal was to chase the chief out of town.


Hollywood Doggie Beach Pictures

The attempt to embarrass and ultimately oust top cop Frank Fernandez isn't going to work, city officials and residents angered by the banner said Wednesday.

"Frank, we say to you, do not be bullied or intimidated," civic activist Rita Gambardella told Fernandez, who stepped into the job in mid-August. "We stand behind you 100 percent."

Carl Ignacuinos, a regular at City Hall meetings, says the chief has his support as well.

"I don't care about the stupid [banner] up in the sky," Ignacuinos said. "He's doing a great job."

Fernandez said he meets regularly with the "boots on the ground" and praised them for working hard to keep Hollywood safe.

"I'm not going to lie to you," he said. "I have deep concerns about the department."

But those concerns have more to do with the department's policies and procedures than with any one officer, he said.

"Crime is a little bit better, not because of me but because of the officers who risk their lives every single day," he said.

City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark, the sole person who can fire the chief, says he has her full backing. That sentiment was echoed by Mayor Peter Bober and Commissioners Patty Asseff, Dick Blattner and Linda Sherwood.

"This guy is not a miracle worker and officers do not grow on trees," Bober said, referring to the department's intensive recruiting efforts to replace officers who retired or left for other agencies even before Fernandez took the job.

Not everyone was full of praise for Fernandez.

Commissioner Traci Callari, whose spouse is a Hollywood cop, accused Fernandez of leading by fear and intimidation, a claim he denied.

Commissioner Peter Hernandez encouraged both sides to "sit down, talk it out, duke it out, have a beer, whatever you need to do" to bring peace to the department.

An undeterred Marano told the Sun Sentinel his next move is already under way: placing signs bearing the "high crime" message outside homes in east Hollywood.

The signs are mainly outside the homes of retired Hollywood officers or neighbors of cops still working for the city, Marano said. So far, 15 signs are up and more are on the way, he promises.

Terry Cantrell, president of the Hollywood Lakes Civic Association, blasted the union for "thuggish" behavior, saying the signs would only end up hurting the city and its officers because there will be less money to pay them.

"If you're flying a banner around saying we have a high crime rate, you're driving away new residents and new businesses and new developers," he said.

sbryan@tribune.com or 954-356-4554