By Francisco Alvarado, FloridaBulldog.org
Over the past 18 months, Thais Alvarez’s next-door neighbor hasn’t been so neighborly, she says. Lyle Bien blew leaves on her property, blasted bass heavy music for hours, called her a “fucking bitch” in front of a cop and, since moving out of the neighborhood in February, blocked her driveway on two occasions.
Yet, whenever she called the Hollywood Police Department for help, officers were often reluctant to tell her neighbor to knock it off, wrote police reports that omitted facts about Bien’s aggressions and refused to investigate her allegations of harassment against him, Alvarez told Florida Bulldog. They wanted to protect one of their own, she said. Bien retired as Hollywood police sergeant on July 31, 2020 after 30 years on the force, including as a homicide unit supervisor during his last 16 years.
Alvarez, a teacher and licensed attorney, said she also hit dead-ends with Hollywood elected officials and administrators and the Broward Inspector General when she sought independent investigations into her claims that the police department was giving Bien a pass.
“No matter how many governmental agencies I called, the public employees and elected officials charged with providing taxpayers, like me, with relief from people like Lyle Bien, all dismissed my pleas for assistance,” Alvarez said. “I feel I have been dismissed over-and-over again, and essentially, gagged, disenfranchised and marginalized.”
Bien declined comment to Florida Bulldog. Last November, he filed a Florida Bar complaint against Alvarez that alleged she “has demonstrated unethical and inappropriate behavior” by posting videos of his house on social media and that she broke Florida law shielding the addresses of law-enforcement officials from the public.
In his complaint, Bien said there have been drive-by threats directed at his family members and that they were forced to implement various safety measures, including moving out of Hollywood city limits. “Recently retired, I now find myself and my family members in a position of vulnerability, especially with the current climate regarding the stance on law enforcement,” Bien wrote. “The actions of Ms. Alvarez has caused me to seek residence elsewhere after 24 years here.”
BAR CLOSES COMPLAINT
The Florida Bar closed Bien’s complaint on Feb. 25, citing insufficient evidence that Alvarez had violated any bar rules and laws. Bar counsel Annemarie Craft determined that “continued disciplinary proceedings in this matter would be inappropriate.”
Hollywood Mayor Josh Levy and City Commissioner Traci Callari, two elected officials Alvarez sought assistance from, did not respond to Florida Bulldog requests for comment. Alvarez said she also attempted to set up meetings with Assistant Police Chief Jeffrey Devlin after he offered to help following a City Commission public hearing last year. Devlin and Police Major Norris Redding, whom Alvarez also communicated with about her problems with Hollywood police, did not respond to requests for comment.
Broward Inspector General John Scott declined comment with Florida Bulldog.
On July 3, 2020, Alvarez called Hollywood police when she got into a dispute with Bien about his landscaper blowing leaves, dirt and debris on her property. An initial incident report by Police Officer Brandon Mitchell simply states, “Caller advised landscaper and neighbor who is a police officer is threatening her.”
A month later, after receiving a copy of the report, Alvarez emailed Mitchell and another officer who was on the scene to complain the document was missing a key fact they had witnessed. On Aug. 5, 2020, Mitchell wrote an amended report that included an additional line that states, “While on the scene neighbor Bien yelled, ‘that fucking bitch is crazy’ from his yard, then walked inside his house.”
STRANGE HOLLYWOOD POLICE REPORTS
Another incident report written on July 25, 2020 by Officer Isaiah Pitts was completely untrue, Alvarez alleged. The report states, “Ongoing issue regarding loud music. No music playing.” On Aug. 21, 2020, Pitts wrote an amended report that now stated he had watched a video clip Alvarez took from her backyard in which he was able to hear music being played. “The music was plainly audible…I spoke with neighbors and advised them of the complaint to keep the music down.”
A third cop, Officer Carlos Posada, on Aug. 28, 2020 allegedly witnessed Bien call her a “crazy fucking nut” in front of her mother and 4-year-old nephew and threaten to rip out a fence she put up, according to emails and documents Alvarez sent to Posada and his supervisors.
But the initial incident report by Posada makes no mention of Bien saying profanities and issuing a threat. He amended the report to include the following line, “a verbal altercation ensued in which Bien did call Alvarez a ‘fucking nut’ without leaving his property.” Posada also wrote that Bien gave Alvarez three days to remove the fence “before he handles it himself.”
Alvarez sought more corrections to Posada’s amended report, but he and his supervisors ignored her subsequent emails, she said.
About two weeks later, Alvarez sought a protective order against Bien that accused him of stalking her. Her request for a temporary injunction was denied on Sept. 11, 2020, according to the Broward County Clerk’s online court docket.
During a City Commission hearing on Oct. 14, 2020, Alvarez was relaying her experiences with the Hollywood police during time allotted for citizens to make public comments. But her speech was cut short by City Commissioner Callari, who informed Alvarez the meeting was “not the proper forum” for her to address her issues with the Hollywood Police Department, according to video of the public hearing. Callari told Alvarez she would follow up with her personally afterward.
Assistant Police Chief Devlin also approached her the same evening and offered to meet with her the following week after hearing her concerns, Alvarez said. She said after several attempts to schedule the meeting through Major Redding, it never took place. The assistant chief and Major Redding ignored her emails, Alvarez said.
Her meeting with Callari also never happened after she insisted on being able to record it, Alvarez said. On Nov. 3, 2020, the day she was to meet Callari, she received a hostile email from City Attorney Douglas Gonzalez that the conference had been called off. “You have distorted the facts and seek relief that cannot be provided,” Gonzalez wrote. “As a result, I am asking that you cease any further communication with City staff, and since you have indicated that you have a law degree, you are asked to direct any further communications to me only.”
BROWARD IG DOES ZIP
Last December, Alvarez turned to the Broward Inspector General, requesting an investigation into the Hollywood Police Department’s handling of her incident reports, as well as investigating city officials, including Gonzalez, for attempting to silence her grievances with the police department at a public hearing.
The watchdog agency closed her complaint on April 7 because the matter “would be, is being or has been appropriately addressed by [an]other agency or in [an]other venue/litigation,” according to an email Alvarez received from the Inspector General’s Counsel Carol “Jodie” Breece. In a subsequent email the same day, Breece informed Alvarez that her file did not contain any reports other than an investigative memorandum that outlined her allegations.
Alvarez then sent a 21-page memo to Inspector General Scott on June 25 outlining her disappointment that his investigators did not even conduct a single interview with a Hollywood city official and or even give a cursory inquiry into her allegations. Alvarez said Scott never replied.
“Unfortunately, the Broward Inspector General made a mockery of my complaint,” Alvarez said in an interview. “Scott did not even have the courtesy of writing to me to indicate that he had received the letter. At this point, I presume he will not get back to me.”
When Bien and his wife sold their house eight months ago and moved out, she tried to move on, Alvarez said. But her nemesis kept popping up in the old neighborhood to harass her, she alleged.
On April 1, security cam footage trained on Alvarez’s front yard shows Bien’s black Dodge truck stopping in front of her driveway. Her gray Honda SUV is parked near the front door so she was home. His truck blocks her driveway for about 15 minutes and then he drives off.
On July 1, Bien showed up again, blocking her driveway for a second time. Alvarez’s camera records him getting out of the truck, grabbing a brown paper bag out of the cab and then walking toward his old house. A couple of minutes later, as he walks back to his truck, Bien looks toward Alvarez’s residence. He gets back out to talk to a landscaper whose truck and trailer is blocking the other side of the street.
On Aug. 18, the camera recorded the same black Dodge truck idling in the street as Alvarez walked out of her house and got into her SUV. The truck backs up slightly then slowly starts to move forward. Alvarez drives a few feet and pulls into another neighbor’s driveway. The Dodge truck drives by.
HOLLYWOOD POLICE: BIEN ‘STRONG-WILLED’
Alvarez also recorded the truck parked on the swale facing the opposite direction when she pulled onto the road again. Convinced Bien was trying to follow her, she reported the three encounters with Hollywood police. She alleged her now ex-neighbor was stalking and harassing her. Officers wrote incident reports that did not accurately portray what she showed them in her videos, Alvarez claimed.
Her requests to have the incident reports corrected were also denied. In an Aug. 27 email to Alvarez, Hollywood Police Lt. Richard Losenbeck relayed that he and other supervisors reviewed her most recent videos, as well as her recorded clips from the leaf-blowing incident last year. Losenbeck explained the footage was insufficient to charge Bien with any of the crimes she accused him of.
“I imagine parking in front of your driveway was intentional and meant to annoy you, but two times in six months does not rise to a criminal act,” Losenbeck wrote. “What you have is one video of him allowing you to back out of your driveway and then continuing behind you. He was already going in that direction, hardly evidence of stalking.”
Losenbeck also informed Alvarez there was no one in the Hollywood Police Department who could tell Bien to leave her alone. “Lyle Bien is a strong-willed man who is not going to be persuaded to do something he doesn’t want to do,” Losenbeck wrote. “And as a private citizen, he is not bound by any Hollywood Police policies regarding his behavior.”
In closing, Losenbeck said the police department was done dealing with any criminal and internal affairs investigations related to her dispute with Bien and any changes to incident reports. Losenbeck did not respond to Florida Bulldog emails requesting comment.
“He does not have a deterrent to keep him from coming back to continue harassing me,” Alvarez said. “I fear I will never be free of Mr. Bien’s random harassment, which is why I am on edge even though he moved away.”