The troubled Miccosukee Indian police department has fired four officers, two years after a similar purge decimated the ranks of the West Miami-Dade law enforcement agency.
Those fired last week: Marvin Gamarra, Brian Robbin, Lazaro Rodriguez and Carlos Ramos. The tribe gave no reason for the terminations, but Robbin told The Miami Herald he believed his firing stemmed from a petition the officers signed two years ago.
In 2011, the tribe fired seven officers and its interim police chief after a group of 21 officers signed a petition asking for an internal investigation into the conduct of a well-connected police sergeant.
“We know it’s because of the stupid memo we did three years ago. None of us have done anything to actually cause us to lose our jobs,” Robbin said Monday.
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The department suffered another blow Sunday when a rookie police officer, Kares Parrada, 23, shot and killed herself while off duty in her North Miami-Dade trailer home. The mother of five had not been fired but believed she might soon be terminated, according to law enforcement.
Rodriguez told the Miami Herald that he was fired one week after he had pulled over the daughter of a tribal judge, Pete Osceola.
The woman nearly ran him over while he was on the side of Krome Avenue during the traffic stop of another motorist, he said. She immediately called Osceola, Rodriguez said, who showed up at the scene.
“It’s horrendous, one week before Christmas. I’m a father of four with mouths to feed,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been there 19 months and have earned officer of the month two different times.”
Calls to the office of the tribe’s chairman were not returned Monday.
The department has been without a police chief since March, when the tribe fired Bobby Richardson, the former top cop in South Miami. The loss of the five cops has left the department dangerously thin on manpower and experience, the fired officers say. As of earlier this year, the department had less than 30 officers.
The firings are another black eye for the 600-member tribe, which has been under intense public and legal scrutiny in recent years.
The federal government is going after the tribe for what it says are unpaid taxes on gambling proceeds. So far, the IRS has placed $170 million in tax liens on the tribe for back taxes, interest and penalties.
The tribe is also suing its former chairman, Billy Cypress, saying he stole $26 million to spend on numerous gambling trips, shopping sprees, real estate and luxury cars.
State authorities have clashed with the tribe for years over jurisdiction. In April, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle criticized the tribe over a continued, illegal motorist checkpoint on Loop Road.
The Miccosukee police department, a state-certified agency, frequently applies state law to arrest non-Indians near the reservation, yet Indians who are charged with a crime are referred to the private tribal court that is closed to non-Indians.
The department itself has been a revolving door of officers.
In 2010, the tribe fired police chief Thomas Loughren for unexplained reasons. In 2007, the Miccosukees fired police chief David Ward, who later said he believed he was terminated because he charged then-chairman Billy Cypress in tribal court with drunk driving.