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Doral

Four Doral supervisors pushed out in police department shakeup

 

jflechas@MiamiHerald.com

In what he calls an effort to mold the Doral Police Department to be more in line with his philosophy, Chief Richard Blom has turned an eye to his personnel.

During his almost two months as chief, Blom said, he has tried to meet with his officers, and is conducting a full evaluation of the department.

Along the way, he said, he decided that four supervisors were not a good fit with his approach.

These supervisors, who were involved in operations that Blom scrutinized during his review, were given a choice last week: They could resign or be fired.

All four resigned. They are:

• Lt. Miguel “Mike” Pérez.

• Lt. Carlos Alfaro.

• Sgt. Rafael Gracia.

• Sgt. George Gulla.

In a letter sent to the officers April 1, Blom explained his decision.

“Based on my methods and approach in moving the police department forward, I have determined that your services are no longer needed in advancing the department’s goals and objectives in the direction that I envision,” he wrote.

Alfaro replied in his letter of resignation: “In keeping with your wishes to move the police department in a different direction, I respectfully tender my resignation . . . It has been a pleasure to serve the residents of the city of Doral for the past five years.”

Former interim city manager Merrett Stierheim, who had appointed Pérez as interim chief in December, said last week he did not agree with the officers’ resignations.

“I am really disappointed to hear about this decision,” Stierheim said. “You can’t find two more dedicated police officers than Lt. Pérez and Sgt. Gulla. They earned the respect of the Doral police officers across the board. This action is really undeserved and outrageous.”

Some in City Hall support Blom’s decision.

City Manager Joe Carollo said he has to give Blom leeway to make personnel decisions the same way he would to any other department head.

“I hired him because I trust his judgment,” Carollo said.

Mayor Luigi Boria said he thinks Blom is making decisions based on one simple goal: to reduce crime.

City Council member Sandra Ruiz said she would like to be informed of the reasons for the personnel changes.

“As a policymaker, I’m looking forward to receiving a complete report from the city manager on the direction the department is heading,” she said.

Blom maintains that he and the now-departed officers did not share the same philosophy when it comes to policing.

“The philosophy I have is more of what I call a proactive philosophy,” Blom said. “In other words, you try to take care of crimes before they occur.”

Asked whether the officers who resigned were not proactive enough, Blom responded: “I don’t want to get into that.”

During this process, he spoke to a reserve, part-time detective who had been working undercover beyond his specified duties.

He would sometimes rack up 60-plus hours a week — when his part-time status was supposed to allow only 30 hours.

When Blom learned of this, he offered to hire him full-time.

The undercover detective had been working under Alfaro, Gracia and Pérez.

“The lieutenant should have known, and if he didn’t know, shame on him,” Blom said. “When you are a supervisor of a person that is working detached, you have to make it your business to know the scope and duties of the officers who are working for you.”

But Blom had been looking into more than personnel issues.

He has a self-imposed deadline of April 15 to perform a complete inventory of the department. His top priorities are to make sure that all department equipment and confiscated materials are accounted for.

So far, he has noted problems only with the weapons.

A review of the department’s weapons revealed that 21 department-owned rifles were being stored at an off-site public storage facility — under the control of a private citizen.

There was no contract with the private citizen, who was not paid for his service.

“Weapons shouldn’t be stored in someone else’s care,” Blom said.

Blom said he did not know how long the weapons were kept at the facility, but said they were removed within 24 hours of his learning of their location.

“As I find these things out, I try to take immediate actions,” Blom said.

The gun inventory, which is still incomplete, revealed “serial-number recording errors, a shotgun which was never recorded on the master inventory spreadsheet, and the improper documentation of the precise make of numerous .45-caliber pistols,” Capt. Jose Seiglie wrote in a memo to Blom.

Documents also showed other discrepancies.

Alfaro, Gulla and Pérez all had a hand in the accounting of the guns, but Blom did not cite that as a reason for recommending their dismissals.

Blom said he plans to promote from within to fill the empty positions, and has already promoted two officers to lieutenant.

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