Tag Archive for Local News

Officers Accused of Trespass and Perjury to Make Cases

Photo by Ali Caraballo

What happens when an officer takes the law into his own hands?

PINELLAS, FL.  – A dark haze has cast itself upon area law enforcement.  During a recent investigation it was discovered narcotics detectives have been accused of criminal trespass and lying to judges while pursuing indoor pot farmers.

Current allegations under Sheriff Bob Gualtieri’s regime include detectives who obtained search warrants under the pretense that they stood on public sidewalks or in neighbor’s yards and detected the scent of indoor pot farms.

Defense lawyers speculate officers actually gathered evidence by illegal trespassing.  One grower claimed his surveillance camera images clearly showing an officer vaulting his fence were seized and erased.

Growing suspicion continued as Tampa Bay Times reported another narcotics officer refused to answer under oath if any of his fellow officers ever trespassed.

As a result, Gualtieri has put four officers on leave pending the outcome of the  investigation and prosecutors were forced to drop 18 cases.

Former Sheriff Everett Rice wants Gualtieri ousted from office to retake the helm, yet Rice’s administration suffered similar problems during his tenure (1998-2004).

Local defense lawyers claim this is a pattern that has been going on for decades.

Editor, J. Illidge states, “Every American citizen is entitled to privacy, and while I believe in the aggressive and righteous apprehension of criminals, I don’t support such if and when it goes against the legal right of that person.”

What can we do when such abuses are taken by officials; should we as citizens, turn a blind eye to such practices if it is claimed to be for a greater good?

The overall consensus is no.

Mr. Illidge states, “We should create deterrents with higher-than-usual consequences within the law to punish officers who abuse the law.  Police officers are an elite, they are held to higher standards because they are part of enforcement of law.  Their criminal acts are highly symbolic and undermine the law to an unusual degree, and in my opinion that should be addressed with greater consequences.  The same goes for other important officials in a fair legally governed society, including lawyers judges and journalists.”

‘It Takes a Village to Raise a Child’

How one woman’s dream became reality

Photo by: Alisande Caraballo

Born in Jamaica and migrating to Brooklyn, New York at age thirteen, Opal Warren had an early calling to help others. “I admit, when I first entered high school I wanted to be a nurse but my fear of needles and the sight of blood made me faint,” she laughs. But this did not deter her drive, fiercely independent, she was resolved to make it on her own.  Warren attended night school in order to graduate early.

She then turned her attention towards teaching.  “I have always wanted to help or be a service to others.”  While attending Kingsborough Community College she volunteered at Harlem Hospital in a community outreach program for troubled teens. Having graduated, she attended York College as a Psychology major with a minor in Education to gain her bachelors degree in 1996.

Warren immediately began teaching in the New York public school system in Brooklyn for eight years.  The experience left a lasting impression on her as she was able to connect with many children who simply fell through the cracks in the system. “Taking the time to listen to children is important.” So many of them are ignored or have parents too busy trying to make ends meet to give them quality time. My methodology is to look past their anger issues and establish trust.  Once you have their trust, it gets easier.” Warren singlehandedly saved one student from self-destruction when all other faculty had given up on him.  “I’m not gonna lie, it was a rough beginning, but in the end it was worth it.”  Her troubled student later graduated elementary school as valedictorian.

To this day, they still keep in touch.

In 2005 she relocated to Florida and carried on her mission to help underprivileged children.  She started a non-profit youth organization called Kiss Me with Spoken Words. In 2009 she began Our Village Summer Program with the desire to keep young children out of trouble and off the street.

Opal Warren’s reputation began to spread quickly.  As an active participant in many of the community’s events and having garnered the support of a legion of parents it came as no surprise she was elected in 2011 as Director of the Central Florida Boys & Girls Club Poinciana Chapter.

Left to Right: Julienne Serrano and Opal Warren
Photo by: Ali Caraballo

“When I met Ms. Opal  she welcomed me with open arms, I felt I had a sanctuary to retreat to since relocating to Florida.  It was a difficult transition but I found comfort and a good start while with her,” recalls Boys & Girls Club member Julienne Serrano.

“Its through the outstanding and continuous support from the community of Poinciana that really makes our work here such a success. I have 157 members ages 12-18 and I consider them all my children,” says Warren. Her infectious smile and twinkle in her eye let’s us know she has much more in store for us in the years to come.

Spooktacular Fun at Osceola Public Library

The holiday themed events held by the Osceola Library Association have been a

Photo by: Ali Caraballo/Full Sail University

source of safe, educational fun for local residents for over ten years.

The key to the organization’s ongoing success is its team of dedicated staff members.  Librarians Shannon Neal, Kimberly Lewis and Susan McCall all agree, “Passion is what drives us.”

“Holding community events like this encourages children to come to the library to have fun.  Once here, kids can explore phonics, letters and numbers; all foundation materials for VPK and beyond,” says Shannon Neal.

Librarian Kimberly Lewis adds, “ Having taught for over a decade I find being a librarian gives you more freedom for creativity to build confidence with each and every child.”

Susan McCall believes these events, “Instill literacy in children and brings books alive.”

Their drive and enthusiasm not only help the children reach positive education based goals, but has established ties outside of the library as well.  “Many families are grateful for the work we’ve done and we get invited to birthdays, barbecues, and other family events. They appreciate the creative learning environment we provide. We are on the front line of early education, with strong literacy based programs children become better learners,” says Neal.

Reactory Factory was the spotlight event for this year’s Halloween festivities.  The dynamic duo of DJ Dan and Dr. Reacto teach fundamentals in reading, writing, math and science through interactive shows.

While the economy has remained stagnant over the past few years the Library Association remains undeterred. It has had programming for all ages since the day it opened. Additional programs include: story times, book clubs, crafts, author speaking events, lecture series, and summer reading curriculum for all ages.  Other lessons offered are computer classes, how to use digital cameras, and eBooks. Staff members also attend community events to pass out information about the Library and visit schools, and day cares to promote literacy through a variety of fun programs and contests.

The Osceola Library Association takes pride in offering these activity filled events in all of its locations, check your local branch to find the next event near you.



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