Par for the course in Opa-locka
He said the overtime issue happened when Miller used her sick time while on maternity leave, but continued to be asked to work on payroll and crime statistics during her leave.
She collected her sick time and they kept giving her work, he said.
Im not going to say Tamikas job had nothing to do with her familys ties to the city, thats par for the course and part of the problem in Opa-locka.
Tara Lazier, another police officer, claims she was fired after she told city officials conducting the inquiry that in 2008, she was present when another police officer, Lawrence Holborow, removed his shirt and left the station with two women he had encountered on duty. A complaint to internal affairs by a second officer claimed that he later released the women in exchange for sex.
Holborow denied any misconduct, saying the women were never arrested and he and another officer simply drove them home.
Capt. Larry Riley was in charge of the departments internal affairs when the complaint came to light last year. In his sworn deposition, he claims that Cason ordered him to not investigate Holborow, the departments local representative for the Police Benevolent Association. Riley was also fired following the inquiry.
Cason told FDLE she was not aware of the complaint at the time, since she was an assistant chief, not head of the force.
Ultimately the complaint was expunged from Holborows record because the statutory time for the investigations completion expired.
Holborows file contains letters from at least six police agencies indicating that he has a criminal record, that he has, at times, impersonated police officers when he was not one and that he has failed polygraph tests, psychological exams and more than a dozen background investigations. He was terminated from the Wilton Manors and Fort Lauderdale police departments, and resigned from The Miami-Dade School District Police for violating moral character standards, state records show. He became so belligerent during a background interview with the city of Miami Police Department that he was thrown out of the building.
He was also terminated from the New York City Police Department after they found out that he had a criminal record for possession of a loaded firearm and impersonating a police officer in Plantation in 1984. Holborow said the arrest never happened. The report from NYPD said the arrest record was subsequently sealed, and the Broward state attorneys office later confirmed it had no evidence of it.
Holborow, hired in Opa-locka five years ago, said he has been persecuted at a variety of departments over the past 14 years.
We all make mistakes. Would I do certain things differently? Yes. But Im not a bad guy. Eventually all the stuff will be purged. Im not proud of it, but its not like I went out and got drunk or did drugs. All Im trying to do is clean it up, he said.
Leader of the clean-up crew
Opa-lockas new deputy chief, Antonio Sanchez, has been systematically going through every officers file in an effort to weed out bad cops. He was surprised when told of Holborows history, and said he has not yet gotten to his file.
This administration is committed to higher standards, Sanchez said.
A former assistant chief in Biscayne Park, Sanchez was hired in January and has faced some tough criticism, especially from Miami-Dades Police Benevolent Association.
Among the worst headaches for Sanchez: Sgt. German Bosque, who has been portrayed in multiple news articles as the cop with the most voluminous disciplinary file in Florida. Recently he has had three more internal affairs cases added to his previous record tally of 42. He remains relieved of duty with pay. The department has unsuccessfully tried to fire him five times during his 20-year-career. Bungled internal affairs probes, politics and a powerful police union have all helped him stick around. Last week, he was recommended for termination a sixth time.
John Rivera, president of Miami-Dades PBA, which represents the officers, says that Bosque, with six commendations during his two decades with the city, is the most decorated officer in Opa-locka history.
Rivera said Sanchez is firing officers or forcing them to resign without affording them their right to due process.
But Holborow, the PBA rep, said Sanchez has been fair and, in fact, has raised morale in a department where even good cops have been ridiculed. He has instituted training, which the force sorely lacked, and often works the streets alongside rank-and-file officers, many of them rookies whom he helps guide.
We never had this before in Opa-locka. Two years ago, this place was a madhouse. Now, we are embracing the changes, Holborow said.
Investigating the investigator
But some fear that Sanchezs hit list has been too harsh. Among those he relieved of duty was Officer Michael Steel, who served as head of internal affairs for just over a year. He has five internal affairs probes against him in the pipeline but insists he is being used as a scapegoat, and was often ordered to hire unqualified applicants, including the mayors son.
I know my client has said he had an untenable situation. He was responsible for doing the background investigations into individuals and it was apparent to him that there were some people who werent terribly concerned with the results of the background investigations, said Steels lawyer, Donald Slesnick.
Johane Taylor, the mayors son, was hired as a police officer despite failing his police exam twice and having a criminal past involving domestic battery. According to court records, he was accused of shooting his then-girlfriend in the stomach with a pellet gun when she was pregnant. As part of a plea deal, the case was dropped when Taylor agreed to undergo anger-management counseling. Internal affairs under Steel objected to hiring him, but he was brought on board anyway.
His tenure didnt last. Taylor resigned earlier this year when he faced an internal affairs probe into another domestic violence complaint.
His mother, Mayor Myra Taylor, declined to comment on any issues involving her son or the police department.
Rivera, arguably the most powerful law enforcement officer in the state, provided The Herald with documents spanning 25 years of Sanchezs career. Sanchez worked as an officer for the cities of Sweetwater, Hialeah Gardens and Biscayne Park. His internal affairs complaints range from unauthorized high-speed chases to criminal mischief involving a dispute 25 years ago in which his ex-wife claimed he broke the front window of her home and glued all its locks. The accusations brought by his ex-wife were not sustained.
The PBAs own documents conclude that Sanchez was often the target of police administrators jockeying for power. Biscayne Parks background check, which tracked Sanchezs whole career, concluded his internal affairs complaints were largely the result of tainted investigations and false allegations.
Sanchez declined to comment on his own history. Sanchez said the fact that Rivera is targeting him is proof of the effectiveness of his efforts to disinfect the department.
Because of all the turmoil within the department, he admits fighting crime has often taken a back seat.
The citys most notorious crime haven, The Triangle, is still among the grimmest, drug-soaked spots in the city, replete with boarded-up buildings, piles of garbage and broken street lights. Despite a bold plan announced last year to transform the barricaded area into a model, family-friendly neighborhood renamed Magnolia North, little has changed.
New name but familiar trouble
Last month, two people were murdered and three others wounded in a barrage of gunfire during a street party. Only six officers were on duty to patrol the city that night, which, on a normal weeknight is often so busy that officers have a hard time keeping up with routine calls, let alone double-murders.
Sanchez said there are decent families living in The Triangle, trying to raise children and earn an honest living. The neighborhood, like other troubled ones in the city, is a work in progress.
An elected fixture in the city for 14 years, Taylor said the city gets a bad rap. Its crime rate has dropped in recent years, she says. And she points out that it will take time to revitalize the city, which is roughly 5.5 square miles and has about 18,000 residents.
There are other cities with worse problems than Opa-locka, she said.
Pearlberg, who has other cases involving firings in Opa-locka, says that FDLE should have taken over the department a long time ago.
I dont understand why FDLE hasnt closed that place down. They should enter an order that Miami-Dade take over and staff it themselves because its not going to change there.
In an earlier version of this story, Glen Curtiss' name was misspelled. We regret the error.