At a recent informal debate, Vereen said, “Just because I have the backing of the PBA, that does not mean I will turn a blind eye to police misconduct and corruption” if elected. Vereen has also blasted Fernandez Rundle for what he says are “political prosecutions.”
Fernandez Rundle has the support of the Fraternal Order of Police, which represents city of Miami police officers.
As for Rivera, he has been a longtime critic of the state attorney since her office investigated and eventually brought down the union’s ally, County Commissioner Bruce Kaplan, in 1998. Rivera famously said two years later: “A Martian could run against her and we’d support the Martian.”
Rivera and top union staffers criticized prosecutors and attended the 2010 trial of two Miami-Dade officers convicted of stealing from a drug dealer. An appeals court upheld the convictions, which resulted in prison time for the officers.
Rivera on Monday blasted prosecutors for taking 15 months to make the arrests, and claimed they were payback for the union’s probing the State Attorney’s Office’s financial dealings.
“I want to be clear, the PBA does not condone the behavior of rogue cops. However, each situation is different, and all officers facing charges cannot be painted with the same brush. In my years of experience, this is one of the worst cases I have seen of bad prosecution, bad investigation and bad administration.”
Local immigrant activists said they were not surprised to hear about the allegations of police abuse of immigrants. But they took comfort that arrests have been made in this case.
“This is like a baby trying to take a first step,” said Herman Martinez, a member of the American Friends Service Committee, a human rights organization. “We want to see the baby walking already.”
Defense lawyers for the arrested officers say their clients are innocent. “To me, it’s like Swiss cheese, there’s so many holes in this case,” said Rome’s attorney, C. Michael Cornerly.
Rome, who has been with the department since 1994, has been investigated by its internal affairs unit 17 times. Only two of the investigations, for “violation of law/conduct unbecoming” and for neglecting and “evading performance of duties,” were sustained, according to his personnel file.
Many of his internal affairs files are not available because the department, by law, can get rid of them after a certain amount of time.
Rome was disciplined in 2001 after he was charged with drunken driving. He was placed on administrative duty with no police powers for two years, enrolled in an alcohol-treatment program and had to make a donation to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, according to Florida Department of Law Enforcement records.
According to police and court records, Rome got in his car after having five rum-and-Cokes at a local bar, and rear-ended another car. Breath tests taken about an hour after the crash showed that Rome’s blood alcohol level was .181 and .187. Florida’s legal limit for driving is .08.
The driver of the other car broke a tooth and an elderly woman in the back seat broke her pelvis and fractured her hip, according to FDLE records.
Rome’s breath tests were not allowed to be used at his trial because the judge decided Rome was coerced into giving them. An expert also testified that there was no way Rome could have avoided the accident.
Deegan, who has been with the department since 1993, has been the subject of five internal affairs investigations, none of which were sustained, according to city records.
Officer Soto had never been investigated by internal affairs before this case, records show.