Opa-locka has the dubious distinction of employing the cop who can’t be fired. Though the city keeps on trying.
Sgt. German Bosque of the Opa-locka Police Department has been disciplined, suspended, fined and sent home with pay more than any officer in the state.
He has been accused of cracking the head of a handcuffed suspect, beating juveniles, hiding drugs in his police car, stealing from suspects, defying direct orders and lying and falsifying police reports. He once called in sick to take a vacation to Cancún and has engaged in a rash of unauthorized police chases, including one in which four people were killed.
Arrested and jailed three times, Bosque, 48, has been fired at least six times. Now under suspension pending yet another investigation into misconduct, Bosque stays home and collects his $60,000-a-year paycheck for doing nothing.
Before he was ever hired in Opa-locka 19 years ago, Bosque, whose nickname is GB, was tossed out of the police academy twice and fired from two police departments. Each time he has faced trouble he has been reinstated with back pay. He boldly brags about his ability to work a law enforcement system that allows bad cops to keep their certification even in the face of criminal charges.
“He is a time bomb that has now exploded,” said Opa-locka Police Chief Cheryl Cason.
Bosque’s attorney, William Amlong, in a letter to Opa-locka’s city attorney, contends that Bosque is being harassed and punished with no good reason. He has been told he is the focus of a criminal investigation, but has not been told what he has done wrong other than run a red light in Aventura a year ago.
In the letter written June 27, Amlong urges the city to return Bosque to duty so he can serve the city, “rather than sleeping late and watching telenovelas and Cops reruns.”
By no means is Bosque the only police officer in South Florida to straddle both sides of the law, but his disciplinary record and his city’s inability to get rid of him are a study in how legal loopholes allow troubled cops to stay on the street.
Bosque admits that in his early years as an officer, he was immature and made some mistakes. But he insists he is a good, hardworking police officer.
“Back then I was a big hot dog. I was catching bad guys, getting commendations while all the other guys were lazy,” he said.
TROUBLE AT THE POLICE ACADEMY
In 1983, Bosque was hired as a public service aide by Dade County, but after being dismissed from that job two years later, he got a job with the county working as a locksmith. “I still wanted to be a police officer,” Bosque said. He soon realized that the sleepy little hamlet of Virginia Gardens was looking to hire cops. He began as a dispatcher at night, and the city put him through the Miami-Dade Police Academy.
He almost made it through, but two weeks shy of graduating in 1990, Bosque, then 26, and another recruit were arrested for carrying a fake police badge they bought at a police equipment store. They were charged with impersonating a police officer, auto theft and possession of a firearm in the commission of a felony. The pickup truck they were driving had been reported stolen almost a year earlier from the county housing division, where Bosque once worked.
He was fired from Virginia Gardens and tossed out of the police academy because of the arrest, even though the charges were later dropped.
Bosque worked for a time in his family’s locksmith business, and eventually landed at the Polk County Police Academy in Winter Haven. But just days after graduating in June 1992, he was arrested again, spending three days in a Jacksonville jail after he was stopped for speeding and police discovered his license was suspended.
Then came Hurricane Andrew. Bosque promptly drove south to Florida City, which had been decimated by the storm. Its police cars and fire engines had all been damaged.
“They looked at me and said, ‘God bless you’ and gave me a police windbreaker and dropped me off at a Quik Stop with a shotgun,” Bosque recalled.
Fearing that someone who knew about his checkered past would spot him, Bosque said he hid inside the store, eating snacks and drinking coffee. He worked for a few weeks, but as he feared, someone recognized him and it wasn’t long before the chief told him to leave.
Out of a job once again, Bosque applied to become a dispatcher in Sweetwater, hoping to eventually work himself up to a full-time job in law enforcement.
But Sweetwater dragged its feet, and Bosque, meanwhile, decided to try to get a job with Opa-locka, a hardscrabble city that had one of the highest poverty rates in the country — and also one of the most corrupt police departments.
“Nobody wanted to work in Opa-locka,” Bosque said.
He brought the chief a plate of cookies and the chief agreed to let him work as a volunteer reserve officer at night — without pay. For a year and a half, Bosque worked for Opa-locka for free, but earned off-duty pay patrolling flea markets and other businesses. He was finally hired in 1993, but the standard six-month probationary period was stretched to 10 because, Bosque said, authorities were treating him unfairly.
While he was on probation, a new chief took the helm, and the chief looked at Bosque’s record and promptly fired him. By then, Bosque’s bluster and his propensity to ignore the rules made him unpopular with both the brass and his fellow police officers, the latter of whom he constantly derided as being stupid and lazy.
But he was shrewd enough to work the right political channels and had an ally in Dr. Robert Ingram, the late, powerful Opa-locka mayor. Upon learning that Bosque was fired, Ingram told the chief, Craig Collins, to reinstate him, full-time, Bosque said. Bosque had grown to know Ingram because he often drove the mayor around.
“I was almost gloating. I was off probation, finally! I thought,” Bosque recalled.
And it seemed, in spite of all his past misconduct, there was nothing Bosque could do to lose his badge.
Opa-locka inexplicably dropped the ball on almost all the internal affairs complaints on Bosque. He was fired after police found cocaine in his police vehicle, but appealed and managed to keep his police certification and his job.
In February 2008, Bosque’s questionable behavior took another turn when the state attorney’s office began noticing that key drug evidence in some of his cases was missing. His police car was inspected, and investigators found an empty Smirnoff vodka bottle, a small bag of cocaine, crack pipes, Florida license plates, a pile of driver’s licenses he had seized, along with a stack of arrest reports he had never turned in. But the state attorney declined to prosecute, saying there was no evidence of criminal intent, FDLE agreed, and Bosque was back out on the street.
ARABIAN NIGHTS, DANGEROUS STREETS
Opa-locka, one of the poorest and most scandal-plagued cities in South Florida, has a long history of influence-peddling and corruption, stretching back decades. City leaders have been accused of taking bribes, making illegal campaign contributions and covering up criminal wrongdoing. The police department has been the focus of multiple state and federal public corruption probes, as well as a barrage of civil lawsuits.
The city, for years, has faced one of the most staggering crime rates in the nation. Its police department, historically, has had inadequate equipment and officers are among the lowest paid in the region. Salaries have since climbed, with starting salary at $39,000 and an average salary about $45,000.
The city, designed with architecture straight out of an Arabian Nights fantasy, is also home to the “Triangle,” a blighted, nine-block open drug market that was blocked off with barricades, further entrenching gangs and crime. Police were accused of looking the other way as dealers plied their trade.
Though the city has started to clean up the Triangle, its police department’s reputation is still problematic. Its own internal affairs investigator, Michael Steel, has been relieved of duty pending an investigation into whether he lied about his own background and failed to do adequate background checks of other officers.
Last year, there were 41 police internal affairs investigations on a force of 68 officers.
Its current chief, Cason, has had her own troubles. In 1995, as an officer, she tested positive for cocaine and her police certification was placed on probation. Last year, as chief, she was suspended after she was accused of failing to tell the city that she had had a crash with her city-owned car.
Cason, who was promoted to chief in 2010, said she has never taken an illegal drug in her life. A subsequent, more detailed analysis of the sample came up clean.
Cason said she is working with FDLE and the FBI to fix the department, and she hired a well-regarded law enforcement professional and police instructor, Antonio Sanchez, as deputy. Sanchez is a former assistant chief in Biscayne Park and former Hialeah Gardens police captain. He teaches criminal justice at St. Thomas University and Miami Dade College.
“I inherited years and years of problems,” Cason said. “I knew that I needed someone with integrity, someone I could trust to improve our department’s reputation.”
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission, which reviews police misconduct, has repeatedly declined to strip Bosque of his law enforcement certificate. The state’s police unions have successfully persuaded legislators to pass laws that protect officers and provide loopholes that allow cops like Bosque to keep their badges and their guns.
Miami-Dade County’s Police Benevolent Association, which has successfully fought Bosque’s dismissals, did not respond to requests, in email and by phone, for an interview for this story.
Amlong, Bosque’s personal attorney, said in his letter that Sanchez has it out for Bosque and other Opa-locka police officers who he said have been improperly “sidelined” from their jobs without due process. Sanchez has also brought in some of his “cronies” from Biscayne Park, adding to the instability of the department, Among said.
Bosque said he has worked under 16 different police chiefs in 19 years with the force.
Retired North Miami Police Maj. Bob Lynch said politics has been eating away at police departments for almost three decades.
“If a police chief doesn’t have the power to fire them he or she is helpless,” said Lynch, a police instructor in Miami. “It comes down to whoever has the final say, whether it’s the human resources director or the mayor. Plenty of police chiefs try to fire nasty cops and get stuck right back with them.”
Sanchez said Bosque’s introduction to him spoke volumes.
“He basically bragged about all the things he’s done and how he got away with everything,” Sanchez said.
“Everyone knows who German Bosque is,” said Sanchez, who was hired shortly after a series appeared in The Sarasota Herald Tribune that featured Bosque as the poster-boy for bad cops. Bosque, without permission, allowed the Sarasota reporter to ride around with him in his patrol car for the story, while joking about his record of misconduct and those who have been unable to get him fired.
Probably the most extraordinary aspect of Bosque’s tenure with the force is that he actually managed to be promoted to sergeant.
Bosque knows the officers don’t like working for him, but he doesn’t care.
“The whole night shift, they only want to sleep. No one wants to work. They do nothing all night long and when I write them up, [the complaints] went nowhere,” Bosque said.
Bosque once spent a year home on suspension while being paid before being reinstated.
“I got my job back. Back on the job — that’s been my whole life.”
WAITING OUT HIS LATEST SUSPENSION
Bosque, who stands about six feet tall and weighs about 200 pounds, lives with his fiancée in North Miami. He is supposed to be home during the day while on suspension, and answers the door with his newly adopted dog, a mutt he rescued who had been hit by a car.
“I love being a policeman. I love looking in the mirror and the person I see,” he said.
He likens the effort to have him fired to a “witch-hunt,” saying that any excessive force he’s used was necessary for the safety of himself and others.
“I’m against police brutality,” said the veteran officer, who says he doesn’t drink, smoke or go out late at night to clubs.
One of the cases he was disciplined for was slapping a 16-year-old teenager three times across the face after the boy’s mother called police during a confrontation with her son. Bosque took the boy in another room and, according to the complaint, Bosque punched the kid three times in the head without provocation, telling the youth: “I am the law, if I feel like it right now I can f--- you up and no one will say nothing to me.’’ The assault was witnessed by a fellow officer, who reported it. Bosque admits striking the boy. The file indicates that internal affairs investigators felt there was enough evidence to charge Bosque criminally with battery, but the state attorney declined to prosecute.
“He was trash, he had gold grills in his teeth,” Bosque says. “The kid is like a thug.”
Bosque was fired after the incident but rehired. The boy’s mother thought he did the right thing. He said she testified on his behalf.