SHOULD THE POLICE BE ATTENDING YOUR MEETINGS?

I have been to some real nasty association meetings over the last 23 years.  I’ve personally been cursed at, screamed at, yelled at and insulted.  My wife can sometimes get that way.

All kidding aside, I’ve attended meetings where control was totally lost and violence erupted.  It happened more than once and each time there was not a police officer present at the meeting. I’ve seen both board members threatened and owners threatened by other owners.  Unfortunately, this sometimes happens.  The most violent meeting I ever attended was in a 55 and over community where canes and walkers were being thrown.  It was crazy.  The rehab and Medicare bills the next day were probably as much as the association’s budget.

A few years ago I was attending an annual meeting in Hallandale.  There was an officer present.  The meeting ran until about 1:00 in the morning.  There was a guy who was sitting in the second row and nobody really knew who he was.  He looked like he was staring into space the entire 5 hours and never said a word.  That is, until it was time to announce the winners.  All of a sudden the guy awoke from his stupor and charged me.  He was obviously high, and started screaming at me almost nose to nose that I was his lawyer in Spanish and that I should do what he said to do.  The police officer at first did nothing.  So, I   told the police officer that if he doesn’t get this nut to back up, I’m going to back him up.  At that moment, the police officer went into action and screamed at the guy to “take three steps backward away from the attorney immediately.”  The guy didn’t move.  The police officer then yelled, “If you don’t want to spend tonight in the Broward County Jail, take three steps back from the attorney immediately.”  The guy still didn’t move.

The Ombudsman’s Office happened to have been monitoring this election.  The election monitor was certainly nervous and asked if she could please speak to the man in Spanish first.  She said a few words, the guy blew some kisses into the air and then left.  When the meeting ended, the police officer walked me to my car.  I have no idea what would have happened if the officer wasn’t there, but no question in my mind that either me or the nut would have gotten hurt.

Last year, at a condominium in Boca Raton, a guy got up from his chair, walked over to my table and told me to get up and go home because he was going to handle the election instead of me.  I calmly told him that if he so much as touches an envelope I’m calling the police.  To show off for the crowd, he proceeded to deliberately touch all of the envelopes.  Bad move.  I called the cops.  They came in riot gear and escorted him out.  They guy was frightened out of his mind.  I then calmly finished the election.

Now, lots of associations are hiring police officers to attend their meetings.  They do it to try and keep the peace.  Others argue to the contrary, that the Board use these officers as their own personal bodyguards to squash anyone who dares to raise any opposition to their personal platform.  In fact, they ask these officers to kick people out of the meeting if they dare exercise their statutory right to speak.  Others are simply insulted by the fact that their Board thinks that their neighbors need the police to keep them under control.

Here’s what I know…… Meetings sometime get out of hand and it’s a good thing that police officers are often times present to prevent the situation from truly getting ugly.  There also may be a liability question here for the association.  Suppose violence has happened a few times at your meetings?  It’s certainly foreseeable that it may happen again.  Therefore, the Board may be forced to get police protection at all future meetings because if they don’t and violence does break out, there is certainly a negligence claim to be levied against the association and its Board members should someone get hurt.

Cops at your meetings….. a good idea or one that simply goes too far?

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