Miami Police Union Fights Civilian Oversight in Court, Loses Big Case
Miami’s Civilian Investigative Panel regained subpoena powers after three years in court, winning a landmark appeals ruling over the Miami Fraternal of Police union.
That’s right, a police board whose only enforcement power is to compel testimony, and find facts has actually gone years without any teeth.
According to the Daily Business Review, the city of Miami’s victorious outside counsel Mr. Quick said had this to say about the role of the CIP board which he saved:
“If somebody were to look into the heart of what the [Miami] CIP does they would see it’s not pro-police or anti-police,” Quick said. “It’s pro-community. It helps build up police-community relations and gives residents an avenue to ensure that their voices are heard.”
Just last month, PINAC readers might recall that the City of Miami police department was placed under Federal monitoring just last month, hiring Tampa’s former Chief to look over the shoulder of Chief Rolando Llanes full time for the next four years, prompting the Miami FOP’s President Javier Ortiz to declare ‘war’ on Beyonce.
But Ortiz’s support may not be as strong now that the Miami Police Department can be investigated for wrongdoing once again.
Just compare the sad Miami CIP Facebook page, which hasn’t posted since 2013 to Miami’s FOP whose Facebook profile, which is hyperactive by comparison, and has been used by the police union against Facebook policy to dox or share personal information of private citizens from time to time too.
The Miami police union’s current ‘war against civilian oversight’ started seven years ago, and intensified after two Miami cops including Lt. Freddy D’agastino pulled over a 27-year old Broward County assistant state attorney Nicole Alvarez, while driving on Interstate 95. The two officers allegedly harassed Alvarez with dangerous driving, boxing her in with their official vehicles for over 10 miles of high-speed highway travel, before dramatically cutting her off nearly causing a collision.
The Miami cop issued her a traffic citation for following too closely.
Miami police’s internal affairs unit investigated themselves, and found nothing wrong with the offending officer in this scenario.
However, the Miami CIP stepped in with subpoenas.
That’s when Miami’s police union swooped in with their top notch private legal team, and sidelined the entire panel over the traffic incident.
D’agastino has since been promoted to Commander.
Fortunately, the City of Miami hired outside counsel John Quick of the law firm Weiss Serota to litigate the case at Florida’s 3rd District Court of Appeals, though the largest municipal corporation already has 28 lawyers on staff already.
Now, Miami residents have a chance of their Federally monitored department actually investigating bad cops.
The entire court voted 7-3 against reviewing the case en banc and the panel majority declined to certify conflict between their ruling an another similar case from Orlando’s 5th circuit, which would’ve made a Florida Supreme Court review likely.
But Judge Leslie Rothenberg dissented, leaving the door open just a tiny bit for the police union to petition for a higher level review, even though same court previously ruled that even Miami’s former Chief of Police John Timoney was subject to the panel’s powers, but the Orlando case excluded an elected county Sheriff from similar oversight specifically because he was elected.
Timony was investigated for getting a free Lexus, then resigned.
D’agastino isn’t an elected official.
In 2009, Publisher Carlos Miller wrote a scathing report for NBC6 Miami based on the testimony of a former Miami CIP investigator entitled, “City of Miami has Broken its Promise: Former CIP investigator delivers scathing letter to mayor and commission” after its former lead investigator said of the panel:
“It is wrongly giving the citizens of Miami a false sense of civilian/police oversight that has failed miserably and is wasting taxpayer’s dollar to essentially provide the prior executive director, the current interim director and the independent counsel with inflated salaries and benefits with almost nothing to show for it.”
And Miller wrote about the very same former Miami CIP investator/whistleblower in PINAC News too, but about his arrest which they refused to investigate in a story entitled “Miami Civilian Investigative Panel Exposed for Farce that they are.”
Back when Miami’s CIP could file subpoenas, it was far more active, like the time it decided to let the Miami Police Department itself file a complaint.
The City of Miami itself complained against Officer Geovani Nunez in 2008 just for blowing the whistle on two Lieutenants’ arresting world-famous Club Space’s owners, for absolutely no reason, literally digging through the book for an excuse after the detention according to Nunez’s statements.
The Miami CIP exists to protect citizens, but Miami’s perverse municipal government instead used the panel to retaliate against a whisleblower when the Miami Police Department claimed that it was its own officer’s victim and had its complaint sustained.
“I’m tired of the silence,” said the then-Miami cop Nunez, who committed the crime of was crossing the Blue Code of Silence by speaking the truth about a false arrest, finishing with, “They can stick that blue line up their ass.”
The very next year, in true Miami fashion, Officer Nuñez left the force shortly thereafter, because he was caught in an FBI sting protecting cocaine shipments and was sentenced to 11 years in jail.
Miami FOP President Javier Ortiz mentioned Nunez in a recent podcast interview, alongside convicted ex-Miami cop Juan Maldonado-Dick, who was sentenced to three years last week for virtually the same crime as both being “bad cops” which his union did not defend in court.
Ironically, Ortiz gave us the following comment about the CIP asking to name five things its done right, besides the 28 sustained complaints the board found in 2015 without its subpoena powers.
While it’s uncertain if the Miami CIP has saved taxpayers money, Ortiz would hardly be one to opine credibly on the subject, having caused this $400,000 judgement from a 2011 incident at Miami’s world famous Ultra Music Festival whose 2016 concluded this weekend with fewer arrests than last year, excepting Miami-Dade County’s transit employees raping concertgoers. But the local judge in the case blamed the concert for that rape, because EDM.
UPDATE: In response to the above paragraph, Lt. Ortiz provided the following statement, “The insurance company settled due to the fact that there were two officers that had been federally indicted for protecting drug dealers which had nothing to do with the incident . I wanted to go to trial.”
Ortiz further insists that he was acting lawfully on duty that day saying, “All independent witnesses as well as the video cleared me of any wrongdoing.”
Carlos Miller’s prescient 2009 story about his own beating at the hands of Miami police, about how the board had intentionally lost his contact information, and thereby foreclosed an investigation of his brutal drubbing, foreshadowed what eventually did snowball into an investigation of the investigative panel in 2014 saying this:
I had already determined the CIP was ineffective about doing anything, especially the way they handled the case of Miami Police Chief John Timoney, who was being investigated for accepting a free Lexus SUV.
As it turns out, I was right on the money when I wrote, “perhaps we need to create a civilian’s investigative panel to investigate the Civilian Investigative Panel.”
The Miami Herald’s editorial in 2014 when the investigation landed was entitled simply: “Civilian Investigative Panel’s Epic Fail.” The newspaper of record noted that Miami CIP existed because of the agency’s toxic 2001’s brew of misconduct was a, “one-two-three punch of suspicious police shootings, throwdown guns and officers lying to grand juries” eulogizing the agency charged with oversight of over a thousand cops policing half a million residents, and millions of tourists, and motorists annually, saying:
The city of Miami’s Civilian Investigative Panel has fallen so far from the ideal of being a vigilant police watchdog that its very future is in jeopardy. If it cannot live up to its mission as the independent overseer that acts on behalf of aggrieved residents — and to help protect law enforcement, too — then city leaders, CIP advocates and the taxpaying residents have every right to question whether it should exist at all. However, it should. It’s an important civic agency.
Last year, the Miami CIP had 276 cases submitted, and still found officers wrong 11 percent of the time.
One day, should the Miami Civilian Investigation Panel finish beating the police union in court, maybe that number will rise.