A Hialeah police officer charged with selling guns illegally has been sitting behind a desk in an administrative job instead of sitting at home since being indicted in December.
Rafael Valdes, a current Hialeah officer, and his wife Tammy, a former cop for West Miami and Golden Beach, were charged with dealing firearms without a license, according to an indictment handed down by a federal grand jury in West Palm Beach. They surrendered to police on Dec. 14.
At that time, department spokesman Carl Zogby told the Herald that Rafael Valdes had been suspended with pay upon his arrest.
Subsequent to todays arrest, Officer Valdes has been suspended pending further action, he said.
Police Chief Sergio Velazquez clarified last week, saying Valdes was stripped of his police powers and placed in an administrative job since federal investigators served a warrant on his home in December. He is researching police policy in the training division.
There is no difference in having him stay home when I can have him at work, he said.
He said Valdes alleged misconduct had nothing to do with his duties as a police officer and involved off-duty activities.
Before the indictment and reassignment, Valdes was the departments rangemaster, the forces top firearms official.
Youre innocent until proven guilty, his alleged misconduct is nothing related to his duties as a Hialeah police officer, Velazquez said, adding that since the department has an obligation to pay Valdes during his paid suspension, he might as well do work instead of sitting at home.
Hialeah Sgt. Tony Luis, a union representative in the department, said its the chiefs decision, on case-by-case basis, as to whether an officer on suspension should sit at home or be reassigned. Suspension without pay can only be handed down by the mayor.
I know to the general public it may look weird, Luis said. But its just the way things are done. Anybody could be charged with anything. It doesnt mean theyre guilty.
He said if Valdes is found innocent, the department could be accused of having wasted resources by keeping away from work.
Tony Sanchez, who currently criminology at Miami-Dade College and has previously served as a deputy police chief in Opa-locka, echoed Velazquez and Luis, saying it was good policy.
Youre going to have to pay him anyway, he said. So at least youre getting labor for the taxpayer dollar.
Valdes awaits an August trial date.
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