Night life

Miami Police Department Controversial Capt. Javier Ortiz Suspended for the Third Time

How many times can a Miami Police Department (MPD) officer get suspended and keep coming back? Twice? Perhaps he has nine lives like a cat?

MPD’s most conflict-prone cop, former Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) union president Capt. Javier Ortiz, has been suspended with pay for a third time, pending an Internal Affairs (IA) investigation, MPD’s Public Information Office has confirmed.

Ortiz’s attorney, Richard Diaz, tells New Times he has not been told the grounds for the suspension, but he believes the move is in retaliation for his client’s recent whistleblower complaint against Miami City Commissioner Joe Carollo. Ortiz threatened Carollo with legal action following comments the commissioner made about him during a public meeting regarding now-former police chief Art Acevedo. (The complaint is embedded at the end of this article.)

“This is Miami banana-republic, small-town politics at its best — worthy of a Netflix series,” Diaz says of Ortiz’s most recent suspension. “This just puts the whistleblower complaint on steroids. I look forward to taking Joe Carollo’s deposition.”

The suspension comes a mere seven days after interim police chief Manuel “Manny” Morales was sworn in after Acevedo’s firing became official last week. It’s the most high-profile action of Morales’ scant tenure, and it comes after numerous city officials, including Carollo, have called out Ortiz’s long history of alleged misconduct.

Ortiz, who has been on the force for 17 years, was suspended with pay for a month in 2017. In that case, a Miami woman had recorded a cop speeding in a patrol car the previous year. She alleged she was harassed and doxxed on Facebook by Ortiz, who posted her personal cell phone number and photos and encouraged people to call and disparage her. The woman was granted a restraining order, which was later thrown out because of a lack of evidence. When he returned, he was promoted from lieutenant to captain that same year.

Ortiz had only been back on the job for eight months before his second suspension.

In January 2020, he was suspended with pay for a year while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Federal Bureau of Investigation completed a probe into an alleged pattern of abuse by Ortiz against minorities, particularly Black Miamians. In February of this year, the U.S. Department of Justice dropped the investigation owing to a lack of physical evidence. In their closeout report, investigators noted IA dropped “most” complaints against Ortiz or allowed them to expire without investigation.

Rodney Jacobs, Jr., assistant director of Miami’s Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP), a watchdog group that reviews citizen complaints into MPD officers, points out that if the current suspension is unrelated to actions involving his duties as an officer, Ortiz wouldn’t be entitled to protections that apply to officers who are carrying out their duties, nor would the police union have jurisdiction to represent him in court.

“This is an interesting suspension by the chief. If it is based on a hostile working environment claim, typical police protections will not apply in this investigation,” Jacobs tells New Times.

When Acevedo arrived in April, he promised to purge the department of bad cops and said he was keeping a close eye on Ortiz, including assigning the longtime captain to wear a body camera. “He’s not a cat,” Acevedo told New Times in July, referring to the nine-lives myth regarding felines. “Sooner or later there’s gonna be something that will stick, and his career is going to come to a screeching halt.”

Ortiz was subsequently reprimanded by then-Maj. Keandra Simmons for defying a direct order and for being late to his post, but Acevedo didn’t sign off on the reprimand, so it did not become part of Ortiz’s personnel file.

Just this week, another MPD officer, Sgt. Edwin Gomez, sued Ortiz in federal court for allegedly trying to ruin Gomez’s career and making his life in the department a “living hell.”

The CIP, which has investigated many of the nearly 60 citizen complaints racked up against Ortiz in his years on the force, has pleaded with past police chiefs to address the repeated issues. In July, the CIP wrote to Acevedo warning him of the risk to the community that Ortiz represents if left unchecked.

“After all the heartache Capt. Ortiz has applied to the community, a claim [from] his fellow officers could be what removes him from the honor of being a police officer,” Jacobs says. “It’s important to underscore this situation because it shows that troubled officers can be hostile to other members of the force.”

Ortiz did not respond to a request for comment from New Times via email.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *