The crowd had already streamed out of Mango’s Tropical Cafe on South Beach around 4:30 a.m. Monday.
But there was something about the uniformed cop working the popular club on Ocean Drive that caught an onlooker’s attention.
Miami Beach Sgt. Mike Muley, on his regular off-duty shift, appeared drunk.
An anonymous call to 911 set off an internal investigation and left a new police chief to answer embarrassing questions about a member of his force.
Muley, who was quickly relieved of duty Monday, is one of at least four Beach officers accused of being drunk or drinking while in uniform in the past three years.
“Drinking on duty, being intoxicated on duty is not going to be tolerated by this organization,” said Police Chief Dan Oates.
The latest incident marks the first public crisis handled by Oates, on the job since June, and highlights recommendations in a recent audit calling for the department to change the way it doles out off-duty shifts.
“A full-blown investigation into the officer’s behavior last night is underway,” Oates said. “If there is anybody in the community who saw this officer” during his shift early Monday at Mango’s, “we want to talk to them.”
This is not the first time Muley has been in trouble.
Three years ago, he was demoted for his role in a scandal involving a former Beach cop — also accused of being drunk on duty — who ran over two beach-goers in July 2011 while riding an all terrain vehicle.
Muley fought the demotion and got his stripes back.
The criminal case against the officer, Derick Kuilan, wrapped up last week, and Muley testified for the state.
Kuilan was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Joshua Wallack, whose family owns Mango’s, said he and his employees are cooperating with the investigation into Muley. Wallack said he has “no idea” where Muley would have gotten alcohol that night, or whether Mango’s employees served the cop.
“Our staff is well trained to prevent anything like this from happening. We meet, we train twice a month,” he said. “This incident is one night in thousands and thousands and thousands of shifts.”
Wallack said it appears from security footage that Muley “chose to hang around,” after all the patrons left the club and restaurant.
He said police briefly interviewed the club’s head of security, but did not elaborate.
Mango’s, a tourist attraction for 23 years on Ocean Drive, employs an off-duty officer every night, Wallack said. A handful of the same officers —including Muley — usually cover the shift, Wallack said.
An audit of the Miami Beach Police Department, released in late June, recommended prohibiting officers from working regular off-duty assignments.
“Among other things, officers can develop a sense of allegiance to a secondary employer and choose to ignore their sworn duty in order to protect a source of steady, supplemental income,” auditors warned.
In a city where clubs thump with music and drinks are poured until sunrise, auditors reported Miami Beach officers work 85,000 hours of secondary employment per year. That’s “the equivalent of having nearly 41 additional full-time police officers in uniform and working,” according to the report.
Auditors recommended establishing an office apart from the police department to coordinate off-duty shifts, with details assigned randomly by seniority.
Another recommendation: to prohibit command staff officers from working details because it “diminishes their standing.”
Currently, the police department handles the task of assigning secondary employment details, and officers — including command staff — are allowed to control “permanent” assignments.
The department is still studying the recommendations in the audit, Oates said.
“Generally, I’m receptive to a lot of the recommendations,” he said.
The department has been tarnished by misbehaving cops in recent years. Hoping to re-establish credibility, city commissioners ordered up an audit. The new chief was hired in June.
Beach cops have been under scrutiny following the death of a teenager who was zapped with a Taser; and accusations have been made against a detective for allegedly beating up a drunk model and a good Samaritan who tried to intervene.
Neither issue happened under Oates’ tenure.
The latest problem, said Mayor Philip Levine, “really reaffirms why the police department needed new leadership.”
“I’m confident that Chief Oates will take the necessary steps to ensure that this type of behavior doesn’t reoccur,” Levine said. “It’s a process; it doesn’t happen overnight.”