Two years after a high-level officer in the Miami Beach Police Department was fired for sending more than a hundred pornographic, racist and sexist emails to fellow officers, an arbiter confirmed that the city was right to fire him.
Cities struggle to win union appeals when cops are fired. In this case, arbiter James Reynolds decided that the department was right to fire former Lt. Alex Carulo, calling his actions “shameful and disgraceful.”
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“The nature of the email messages involved here casts a pall over Lt. Carulo’s ability to be regarded with the respect a police officer, especially one in a supervisory or leadership position, must have in order to be effective in performing his or her duties,” Reynolds wrote in his decision.
When he was a captain on the department’s command staff, Carulo used his official city account to send messages that contained offensive jokes about women and immigrants, racial slurs and pornographic images. The emails were sent to several other officers between 2010 and 2012. When the emails first came to light, Police Chief Dan Oates demoted Carulo. Following a review of Carulo’s emails, Oates fired Carulo in May 2015.
Carulo, who had a clean record before this incident, challenged his firing when the police union filed a grievance on his behalf. After arbitration in September and October 2016, the arbiter ruled in favor of the city.
“The arbitration decision was an important victory to reaffirm that the city of Miami Beach has zero tolerance for discrimination and hatred in the workplace,” City Manager Jimmy Morales said Friday.
The inappropriate emails were discovered as part of an internal affairs investigation into the misuse of the city’s email system. Former Maj. Angel Vasquez, who was also caught sending lewd and offensive emails, retired when confronted with the emails.
Another member of the command staff, Captain Richard Gullage, received a one-week suspension after forwarding some of the emails. He retired soon after.
After meeting with rank-and-file officers who had received the emails but did not report them, Oates said many felt they couldn’t do anything because Vasquez and Carulo were members of the department’s command staff.
“This is among the very worst cases of misconduct that I’ve seen in my police career,” said Oates in an interview Friday.
After the scandal broke in 2015, the department started requiring police officers to report improper use of the internal email system to internal affairs. The policy also applies to cops’ social media posts, blogs and text messages.
On Friday, Oates said no one has been reported under the new policy.
The police union was surprised with the decision.
“While the outcome was not what we expected, the Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police has a duty to follow the arbitrator’s decision in this case,” said Bobby Jenkins, president of the Miami Beach union.
Attempts to reach Carulo’s attorney were unsuccessful.
The last time the police fired an officer for misconduct, which included unholstering his weapon while drunk on an overtime shift at a South Beach nightclub, he got his job back.
Sgt. Mike Muley was fired after an incident in July 2014 at Mango’s Tropical Cafe. Late into an evening shift, he consumed six vodka cranberry cocktails, stumbled while trying to dance with a woman and partially unholstered his Smith & Wesson 44 mm handgun.
The arbiter concluded the city should have helped Muley deal with his alcoholism, and it breached his privacy by demanding a blood sample when he was taken to the hospital.
Muley’s decorated 14-year history at the department, which includes many recognitions and awards, factored into the arbiter’s decision.