Miami Beach

Officer Scott Rakow’s pals keep his memory alive (From the archives)

Miami Beach Police Officer Scott Rakow. He was killed in the line of duty in June 1988. The city named a youth center for him that year.
Miami Beach Police Officer Scott Rakow. He was killed in the line of duty in June 1988. The city named a youth center for him that year. Miami Beach Police

This story was originally published in the Miami Herald on July 2, 1988. Officer Scott Rakow’s mother Barbara “B.J.” Rakow died on Feb. 20, 2016. She was 87.

A group of people who will not forget slain Miami Beach police officer Scott Rakow — close friends, some from high school, junior high and even earlier — pleaded Friday for Rakow's hometown to help keep his name alive.

They want something in Miami Beach to be named after Rakow, who was 28. Some place like a park or a youth center. Some place where children play and people compete, some place suitable for the good-naturedly ferocious competitor they laughed with, played ball with and loved.

“We want people to start thinking of the idea now that he gave his life for the city. He lived for the city of Miami Beach. And the city needs to recognize Scott Rakow in that way,” said Jon Simon, 27, a buddy for 15 years.

Rakow died Thursday after suffering a pistol wound to the head Wednesday. He was chasing a suspect in a drug-deal rip-off. Along with a memorial to him, Rakow's friends talked of another goal: tightening the state's handgun laws.

“Just because the Constitution gives us the right to bear arms doesn't literally mean we have the right to walk in the street with guns,” said Norman Reiz, a friend for 17 years.

They hope for support from the Miami Beach and Dade County commissions and, ultimately, the Florida Legislature. They want such changes as a seven-day waiting period for handgun purchases, restrictions on sales of weapons that can be converted to automatic fire and strict registration measures.

But it was the memory of Rakow that was foremost in the minds of the 11 people gathered in a conference room at The Miami Herald on Friday afternoon.

“He touched so many people's lives. He never, never said no to anyone. He was always there for everyone,” said Reiz.

The 11 had made up just a small fraction of the crowd that stood vigil for Rakow as he fought for his life at Jackson Memorial Hospital. Friday, they recalled the always ready softball, basketball and flag football player; the inspirational leader who coached and counseled kids at the Miami Beach Youth Center; the guy called Snake by his pals, for no particular reason.

“If you were there with him, he made you enjoy life. It was an honor to be Scott Rakow's friend,” said Josh Fein.

Rakow's friends said Friday that they had not yet taken their request to city officials.

Contacted Friday night, Beach City Manager Rob Parkins said the effort was news to him.

“I haven't heard about it but it's not inappropriate,” Parkins said, adding that he hopes a written request will come to his office. The measure would then go to a City Commission subcommittee for consideration.

“His reputation is widespread,” Parkins said. “It's a good Beach family, and he was a good cop.”

While his friends were talking with the media Friday, Rakow's family gathered at the Pine Tree Drive home where he grew up.

Photographs of Rakow as a boy and more than a dozen trophies — from basketball, baseball and boxing matches —stood on a table surrounded by food.

Fourteen months ago, Rakow told his family he was becoming an undercover police officer.

“We were unhappy. We thought it was dangerous,” his mother, B.J., said. “He said it was an opportunity. We made him promise he would be careful.”

He planned to attend law school at night and become a lawyer, perhaps eventually a judge, the family said.

“He would have been one of the best,” his sister, Sherry, said.

Rakow's mother said the family knew he was losing his battle for life at 11 a.m. Thursday, when a brain scan showed no activity.

“The doctor told us God had chosen to let him go,” she said. “It was a very sad moment, because his heart was still beating. It was almost as if he was telling us he didn't want to go.”

The policeman was born in Miami Beach. He grew up there and returned after attending the University of Florida. He, his wife of two years, Toni, and daughter Erica, who will be six months old Sunday, lived in his grandparent's home. Rakow had finished renovating the home inside. All that was left was to paint the outside. Friends will do that over the weekend.

Along with Simon, Reiz and Fein, Marc Dusek, Bonnie Lemay, Mike Ortoll, Steve Kelton, Eliot Corvin, Dan Bailes, Robert Novak and Ellen Mizrahi Vargas talked with the press Friday.

Vargas read a goodbye note for Rakow that tightened the groups' throats and made their eyes glisten. In part, it said:

“I know if you were here right now you would wipe away our tears because you always took care of your friends.… You are the kindest, sweetest, strongest and dearest person we ever knew. You were our family, and in turn we will always take care of yours.”

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