An editorial on behalf of law enforcement for National Police Week 2016 – Sunday May 15, 2016 through Saturday May 21, 2016

‘On July 20th 1974, he (Alvin Ford) suggested to George DeCosta that ‘they drive to Fort Lauderdale’ to “make some money”.’

Press Release from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department, Detective Travis Mandell, February 29th, 2012.

Let me warn you that this article is not for the faint of heart. My usual lighthearted monthly missive on industry issues has been tossed aside. I want to draw your focus to an issue of such importance that I must convey my thoughts and feelings on this subject.

As I am writing this article I just received an email from a retired law enforcement friend that ANOTHER police officer has been killed this morning. The wholesale slaughter of our law enforcement brethren is horrific. On average for the last three years a law enforcement officer has been killed in the line of duty every 72 hours. That rate is more than three times higher than the current United States Military deaths for the same time period. 272 law enforcement officers have died since 2014 as of today (www.odmp.org). 82 United States Military have been killed in the same time period (www.icasualties.org).

It is equally tragic that our men and women in all services, public safety and our military, must necessarily die as a result of their daily work. The nature of these professions is predestined to create circumstances both accidental and intentional resulting in death. However when you consider the exposure that each profession undergoes to dangerous circumstances you have to wonder about the numbers involved.

It is almost a given that the military situations will result in deaths through combat. However it is not at all anticipated that routine law enforcement duties would expose such a large number of officers to tragic death with such frequency. The shame is that this occurs at all. But more importantly if we have any means to be able to reduce or eliminate these deaths we should be proactive in taking them.

Why is this important to the alarm industry? On the surface it would appear that this issue is a ‘no brainer’. Officer safety would of course be paramount to protect them during responses to alarm calls. But this goes much deeper than that. Traditionally police departments have responded to alarms because they want to; not because they are forced to. The act of response is driven by a desire to serve the public and generally in their view responding to these alarm calls is a part of their overall service to the public.

The problem from our side arises when we as an industry overburden their systems. A few years ago it was not uncommon for a police department to respond to alarm calls when the calls for alarm service exceeded 25% of the total calls for service. Now with modern day technology, alarm dispatch management programs and improved monitoring algorithms these calls for service can be lowered to as little as 2% of all service calls. Make no mistake that under the statutes in most states there is no special relationship created that requires police or sheriff’s departments to respond. They respond willingly for a variety of reasons, but they do it none the less.

The conclusion is that we as an industry are under at least a legal, if not moral obligation to do everything in our power to assure that dispatches are correct, safe and true in every case. If law enforcement is willing to put it on the line to respond, then we are obligated to NOT waste their time or endanger them in doing so.

This is where convict Alvin Ford noted above enters the narrative. Alvin conspired with three of his consorts to hold up a Red Lobster restaurant in Fort Lauderdale on July 21, 1974. He met up with George DeCosta, Henry Robinson and Alvin Lewis on July 20, 1974 to ‘make some money’ by committing an armed holdup.

In this case the alarm system for the restaurant in question was installed and monitored by a national firm. This was a very hot and humid Florida Sunday morning. Unfortunately a number of false holdup alarms had occurred at this location previously. A few minutes past 8:00 AM the holdup alarm was dispatched and then shortly after a confirming telephone call was received by the police department that the holdup was ‘in progress’ from an eye witness at the restaurant. Unfortunately the confirmation call was not in time to prevent the ensuing tragedy.

Officer Walter Demetrie Ilyankoff, a fifteen year veteran of the Fort Lauderdale police department responded to the robbery alarm and parked in the back lot. Because it was a lazy Sunday morning or perhaps complacent because of the previous false dispatches, inexplicably he did not wait for backup as he approached the rear of the restaurant. Unknown to Officer Ilyankoff he had just missed three of the four robbery suspects as they pulled away in a car from the restaurant in an escape attempt leaving their cohort Alvin Ford to fend for himself.

At this point the entire scene unfolded in front of restaurant employee, waitress Barbara Buchanan, who had been locked in a service closet and had a view through air slots in the door. She watched in horror as robber Alvin Ford was lying in wait inside the service entrance door. As Officer Ilyankoff opened the door Ford shot the officer in the stomach point blank two times with a .22 caliber rifle. Officer Ilyankoff fell to the ground clutching his abdomen and writhing in pain. He somehow managed to reach the shoulder microphone on his portable radio and shouted out blood curdling screams of “officer down”.

Alvin Ford then proceeded to demand the patrolman’s car keys for his getaway since his ‘friends’ had left him to take the fall alone. As the Officer lie dying Ford rifled through the policeman’s pockets looking for the keys. In what can only be described as an act of inhuman savagery, Ford retrieved the keys and then drew Ilyankoff’s own service revolver and executed the lawman in cold blood by shooting him in the forehead.  Ford escaped briefly in the patrol car with the weapons and was captured shortly thereafter. He died in prison years later awaiting execution after a jury found him and his accomplices guilty of the above deplorable crimes.

This execution of a law enforcement officer is only one of over twenty thousand active service deaths suffered since 1791 when these types of records began. Any one of these stories is tragic enough. In this case Officer Ilyankoff was survived by a wife and two children and there are literally thousands of other stories equally as tragic and heartbreaking. This one in particular is pertinent to this narrative because it involved the shocking death of a very brave patrolman and underlying alarm issues.

The next time you sell, install, service or dispatch an alarm, think about the potential consequences, not only for our industry, but for your customer and above all the responding agencies. How well you as an alarm industry representative serve the public will exemplify the level of your commitment to safety and security.

Fast forward to 2016. Today we have police officers being killed almost without pause. This is unacceptable. This has nothing to do with race, religion, creed or other assorted preferences. This is a direct result of our society tolerating practices and attitudes that are not possible to maintain a civilized culture. We cannot sustain a society that abandons critical morals, standards and principles.

Two observations are in order. First, what began as a ‘war protest movement’ in the 1960’s over Viet Nam was slowly hijacked buy radical thugs with a violent agenda. Under the pretext of first amendment protests they perpetrated numerous bombings and murders against government and police agencies. They attempted to justify their illegal actions as essential to maintaining freedom. In fact it succeeded in producing the exact opposite effect as they were committed to chaos as a principle method, not an accidental result.

That radical movement has NEVER gone away. It has stayed on and morphed into other forms over the years. These groups are violence based militants led by grievance mongering race hustlers or anti-government agitators. Known by various pernicious names there are a host of such violent organizations and they are dedicated to the overthrow of the United States. By openly promoting the murder of police officers and disparaging the law, these people are responsible for the exponential culture of violence and lawlessness.

Their reasons for continuing this are varied but always with the same goal. They want to keep the government off balance by utilizing mayhem. By applying greater or lesser degrees of violent pressure they force the opposition (legitimate government) to waste as many resources as possible on time consuming reaction and investigation. This allows the radicals an expanded window to gin up additional grievances and complaints, creating a never ending cycle of agitation. They are criminal opportunists politicizing any instance they can to their advantage. For them if it results in a byproduct such as the murder of police officers, they regard this as a victory in their campaign. We must speak out in wholesale condemnation of them and their actions.

The second item worthy of note is this. Regardless of the chaos, unbalance, violence and other issues that are created by these groups, there is not a single item in our constitution or our religious principles that has changed. We still have the right to ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’. The Ten Commandments are still fundamental to the Old Testament. The Beatitudes are still in place in the New Testament. Law and order are the only concepts preserving a well ordered society.

Our families, our religions, our educational facilities and yes, even our work should still be predicated on the fact that we respect and honor our fellows. And our laws are still on the books to protect our rights…for the moment. If we lose sight of this order then we lose all hope of maintaining our society as a nurturing culture. WE, all of us, must promote the good and welfare of the republic to preserve our heritage and way of life.

Regrettably public office betrayal and abuse are other offenses we have tolerated far too long. To protect our future let us elect, install and hold accountable, regardless of party affiliation, men and women who are committed to leadership. These fellow citizens must respect and uphold the law and the offices they are sworn to; and must be committed to public service, not private gain. They also MUST solidly back our law enforcement agencies legislatively, vocally and sensibly.

The murder of a police officer as stated is a most lamentable act for obvious reasons. The loss washes over us repeatedly like waves in the ocean; reinforcing the emptiness we feel. But it is all the more significant because it is a rejection of the fundamentals we accept and live by. Along with the life taken, this refusal to recognize basic humanity and moreover the principles we hold so dear, is our greatest loss as a people. We must also speak in the wholesome promotion of our uniquely American way of life.

Over the last ten years I have had the privilege of attending dozens of conferences involving law enforcement and fire response agencies. These meetings covered a plethora of industry concerns and hundreds of topics. In every case the people I met of all faiths, colors, creeds and countries were concerned about one issue; protecting the quality of life of the people they serve in a lawful manner.

Take the time to notify your police and fire departments how much you appreciate their service and sacrifice. Never miss an opportunity to praise their efforts and the work they perform. Let them know you care about their welfare. Present them with awards in recognition of their service.

We cannot maintain our way of life if we do not uphold our laws and preserve our order in a moral and constitutional way. Let us do everything within our power to stop this murderous madness.  They truly are, our last line of defense.

Bob Neely

Executive Director

Alarm Association of Florida