Shootings are down 55 percent in Lakeland year-over-year

Ed. note: I made two errors in the first draft of this. I referred wrongly to Capt. Rick Taylor when I should have said Capt. Sam Taylor. And I misstated last year’s number of “gang-related” shootings. There were 13, not 15, as I first said. Both errors have been corrected below. From Jan. 1 through […]

Don Gifford walks among us

Don Gifford is a former Lakeland city and Polk county commissioner. He’s a well-known contractor and self-professed Christian. And he posted this on Facebook on Tuesday. “Islam is a cancer on humanity that, left unchecked, will kill it’s host.” [CQ spelling] He received approving likes from a former Lakeland police chief, a current employee with […]

Poo flingers and whiny babies: of power, honesty, and discourse on campus and America

I’ve had two fairly recent personal experiences with “free speech”-related kerfuffles. 1) I attended the Leadership Lakeland Alumni forum at Grasslands a while back concerning the strong/executive mayor effort, of which I am a supporter and public advocate. Leadership Lakeland brought in a former Miami city manager to speak about his point-of-view, which was generally […]

The missing art of Generation Suicide’s World of (white) Hurt

You can lie to your mama. You can lie to your race. But you can’t lie to nobody with that cold steel in your face And the same God you were so afraid was gonna send you to Hell Is the same one you’re gonna answer to when the pin hits the shell… …Me and […]

College Football: America’s Violent, Immoral, Vital Confederation

In Intruder in the Dust, William Faulkner’s classic meditation on what white southerners owe black southerners, a whiggish white lawyer spends a lot of time talking about “Sambo,” his generic name for black men. This passage leaps out: “We—he and us—should confederate: swap him the rest of the economic and political and cultural privileges which […]

Dear Mr. and Mrs. Barnett: Why you should switch sides on prohibition

I want to share with you an essay I tried to submit to The Ledger a few weeks back. It was my way of answering its editorial page editor’s rather nasty and personalized attack on me for writing critically about some aspects of policing. The Ledger wouldn’t run my response. I don’t know why. None […]

Does The Ledger’s “independent ethics specialist” have a name?

“Gow, We had an independent ethics specialist look at this. There is nothing here to indicate a double standard, as evidenced by the fact that not one of the reputable news organizations that you sent this to ever responded. We did here from one local blogger who has an ax to grind. Best, Kevin” All […]

Lenore Devore’s special treatment: Why are Ledger leaders trying to undermine an improving LPD?

Late last week, former Mayor Gow Fields copied me on an email he sent to Ledger Publisher Kevin Drake and virtually everyone even loosely affiliated with I-4 corridor media. It contained a police report from 2013 that someone had sent to Fields, along with an anonymous note. Bottom line: Back in 2013, Ledger Executive Editor […]

Grady Judd: Voice of the armed minority, deputy of the NRA, hero to white supremacists

A few days ago, I asked the Polk County Sheriff’s Office two questions about Polk Sheriff Grady Judd: 1) Is Grady Judd a member of the NRA? 2) How many personal weapons does he own? I did this because Judd routinely expresses deep sympathy with the NRA and its mission. I wanted to nail down […]

A monument to Annie Darracott’s fantasies; not Lakeland’s soldiers

Meet Annie Hanna Darracott, founder of the Lakeland chapter of the United Daughters of the Confederacy (UDC). That’s her above, standing with a bunch of little girls in front of the Confederate monument in Munn Park some time after its 1910 dedication. You can read all about her on the helpful website of Lakeland’s Annie […]

Ledger’s Bill Thompson: Bureaucratic suckerpuncher for a ridiculous institution

You probably didn’t see this, judging by how little response I received. But The Ledger dedicated essentially its entire Saturday editorial to me and my ongoing writing about how police deploy state power. I assume that Ledger Editorial Editor Bill Thompson, whom I have never met, wrote the piece. The first half went on and […]

Johnson Avenue is 38 percent “better” than it was in 1999

I’m quite pleased with the Lakeland Police Department’s response to my series of articles concerning the killing of Mario Acosta on Johnson Avenue last month — and a series of other unpleasant events in the previous year. I’ve had long, productive discussions with Chief Larry Giddens and Asst. Chief Vic White. Giddens and White led […]

The Johnson Avenue Stabbing, part 3: Of Mario Acosta’s pride and not knowing your neighbors

The night before he died, Mario Acosta cooked fajitas with strips of steak too large to fit on a tortilla. He doused the meat in hot sauce he picked up from some anonymous taqueria near his workplace. And then apparently, he hoisted the steak up on a big fork and chomped down joyously. When the […]

Some answers to Lake Morton/Johnson Avenue questions

My last post asked a series of questions related to the murder of Mario Acosta and LPD’s handling of crime in the Lake Morton area — and specifically Johnson Avenue in the last year. This includes a shoot out in August of last year; a mysterious and heavily-armored drug raid in May; and of course, […]

The Johnson Avenue Stabbing, part 2: a year’s worth of questions for LPD Chief Larry Giddens

After I posted my first dispatch on the Johnson Avenue stabbing, I got some pushback from a Facebook friend. She quoted an anonymous law enforcement officer suggesting very reasonably and non-specifially that I just don’t understand all the intricacies of police work and public communication in aftermath of an event like the stabbing. Fair enough. […]

The Johnson Avenue Stabbing, part 1: LPD’s relentless, discouraging, epic fail

At 10:57 p.m. Friday night, Lakeland police responded to a brutal double stabbing at a house at 720 Johnson Avenue. That’s at the north end of Johnson, near Mr. Fish and the library complex. I live at the other end of Johnson Avenue, where it meets Florida Southern College and Frank Lloyd Wright Way. This […]

Motivations and facts: a quick response to Gene Strickland and supporters

The day after The Ledger quoted me in a story about the executive mayor push, former City Manager Gene Strickland called me to ask if he could come by my house to talk about it. I was very busy that day; but I happily made time. We had a nice chat at my dining room […]

Moral arcs, part 1: Grant us the grace to fight Grady Judd’s American battle flag

“I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.” Dylann Roof reportedly said that before he massacred a Bible study class at Denmark Vesey’s church. We know this because he let one woman go so that she could tell people about his reasoning. Thus, […]

How Southwest Middle rescued a child from the cruel, incompetent indifference of a choice school

Today we have a guest post. I’ve known the Olson family for a long-time. My son Ian and their son Luke have grown up with each other. We are all dear friends. I had known about the story Sara Olson is about to tell you; and I encouraged her to tell it. I’m grateful that […]

Gigabit Lakeland, the Fire Fee, and Downtown: Why I’m flipping on strong mayor

I still hold all of the concerns I raised a while back concerning the push for a strong mayor system of government. Badly implemented, it could sow structural chaos and give disproportionate power to organized voting blocs. But my reading and observation in the past month or so have changed my mind about the cost-benefit […]

1926: The lasting points of Lakeland’s violent, troubled birth

On the night of Sunday, August 22, 1926, 17-year-old Ed Attenburg went to visit a girl on West Hollingsworth Street. When he came back, he found a cross burning next to his car. Attenburg kicked it down — either in defiance or because he feared it would set his car on fire. Accounts differ. As […]