Only one city of Miami police officer has ever been referred for criminal prosecution on a "Collars for Dollars" allegation.
In 1993, Wilfredo Perez-Borroto, then a 25-year-old patrolman, was accused of stealing overtime money by going to court on cases he had nothing to do with. But prosecutors couldn't prove he stole a dime. The department decided last year to fire him anyway.
So he called The Herald. "They've accused me of theft, " he said in August. "You want to see theft? I'll show you what theft is." He said he had evidence that numerous Miami midnight shift officers were getting court overtime they didn't deserve. His research gave a starting point to Herald reporters, who documented hundreds of additional abuses in the Miami, Metro-Dade and Miami Beach departments. "Don't throw rocks at me when you live in a glass house, " Perez-Borroto said. At first, Miami Police Chief Donald Warshaw told The Herald that Perez-Borroto was fired because he had been stealing. "It's a theft of money, " Warshaw said. Informed that an investigation by the state attorney's office failed to establish theft, Warshaw said later, "I'll retract the word 'stealing.' He was found guilty of misconduct, untruthfulness, making a false statement, filing a false report." Perez-Borroto insists he was falsely accused. "These guys set me up, " he said. "It was personal." An ironic twist Wilfredo Perez-Borroto's story is laden with irony: A lowly cop, accused of stealing overtime, turns the accusation against the department itself. "Every now and again, a goat has to be culled out of the herd and tied up and left out there for the lions to chew on, " said Douglas L. Williams, Perez-Borroto's lawyer. "And this time Willie was the goat." He turned out to be a goat with fangs. After he was suspended, stripped of his badge and uniform, he set out to investigate his own department. He bought a computer and spent more than $1,000 to copy court documents. "I did to them what they did to me, " Perez-Borroto said. A cocky, aggressive man who never went to college and joined the Miami police force out of the U.S. Army at age 20, Willie Perez-Borroto is a maverick with a temper that gets him into trouble. "I was my own worst enemy, " he says now. "I let my mouth get ahead of my head." Clashed with supervisor As a cop on the midnight shift in Miami's Central District, he enjoyed chasing down car thieves. Criticized for being too aggressive, Perez-Borroto clashed with his supervisor, Sgt. John Campbell. "Perez-Borroto was a kid I really tried to turn into a good cop, " Campbell, now a lieutenant, told The Herald recently. "He was one of my failures." Campbell described Perez-Borroto as "above average" in performance but lacking in judgment. "He was kind of losing control on the street, " Campbell said. "He was like a loose cannon." Perez-Borroto responds that Campbell wrote him 21 commendations in 13 months. Perez-Borroto's file also shows that he earned the "Blue Knight" award as division officer of the month in December 1991. After his run-in with Campbell, Perez-Borroto was transferred to a desk job. In October 1993, Perez-Borroto was abruptly relieved of duty "pending criminal investigation." For four months, he sat home. He had to hire a lawyer, and his legal bills were killing him. His marriage collapsed. "I lost my home. I lost my marriage, " he said. "I was suicidal."