Miami-Dade County

Miami cop who didn’t salute flag gains support; union chief keeps up pressure

Assistant Miami Police Chief Anita M. Najiy contragulates Jorge R. Colina during a promotion ceremony last week.
Assistant Miami Police Chief Anita M. Najiy contragulates Jorge R. Colina during a promotion ceremony last week. Miami Herald Staff

Miami’s top police union representative doubled down on his call for a reprimand against the city’s highest ranking black, female cop on Wednesday for not saluting the American flag — and his charge was met quickly, and bluntly, by the oldest black police organization in Miami.

In an email released Wednesday to the media, Fraternal Order of Police members and Miami police brass, FOP President Javier Ortiz got to the core of his argument: the religious faith of Miami’s Assistant Chief of Police Anita Najiy.

“I had false hopes that the MPD [Miami Police Department] would address the issue at hand. Assistant Chief Najiy practices in the Muslim faith. The MPD apparently is afraid to address this,” Ortiz said. “In the United States, you have the right to practice any religion and say whatever you want off-duty. When you’re in your police uniform, you are to be neutral.”

Ortiz’s statement was met with a sharp response by the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association, which says it represents about 200 black city officers. The group is not associated with the much larger Miami-Dade County PBA, which represents most county cops.

“Racism cloaked in patriotism is a huge insult to the American flag, the city of Miami police department,” MCPBA President Ella Moore said in a letter she intends to hand personally to Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes.

On Monday, Ortiz fired off a letter to Llanes asking that Najiy be removed as commander of the department’s Honor Guard because she failed to salute the flag and place her hand over her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance at a ceremony last week. Ortiz produced a 23-second video that he plastered over social media showing Najiy standing at attention with her arms at her side as three other top commanders and the chief did the same but with hand covering heart.

Ortiz then cited a section of the police department’s code of conduct that allows for punishment if proper attention isn’t given during a flag ceremony. Police brass shot back, saying U.S. military code supercedes the city code when it comes to the Honor Guard. It calls for military personnel to face the flag, stand at attention and remain silent during indoor ceremonies.

And that’s exactly what Najiy did, said Miami Police Maj. Delrish Moss. He said the assistant chief was simply following protocol and that not saluting the flag had nothing to do with her personal beliefs.

In his email Wednesday, Ortiz said Najiy’s perceived inaction has been ongoing. Then he upped the ante: If Najiy is protected under the First Amendment, so too are other cops, who should be allowed to speak their minds on social media, disrespect the public, even burn the American flag.

“Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it? It is completely reckless to allow this behavior to continue. We aren’t the military,” Ortiz said. “I have great respect for everyone including those that practice the Muslim faith.”

Moore responded to Ortiz’s email by calling him a hypocrite and saying he should have been saluting the flag while he was busy videotaping Najiy standing at attention. Then she listed a string of past questionable moves by the union leader, who often uses social media to fire up his troops.

She said Ortiz falsely claimed he was black and non-Hispanic on his most recent lieutenant’s exam. Then she brought up a flier he was responsible for in April 2011 in which the devil’s ears, red eyes and huge white teeth were photoshopped on Durrall Miller, a man accused of firing a weapon at two police officers.

“We are appalled by the hateful comments that we have been forced to witness over the past several days,” Moore wrote. “Manufacturing issues to divide and call attention away from his own misdeeds seem to be a pattern of this FOP president, who does not appear to be up to the task of showing the true leadership benefiting his current position.”

Responding to Moore’s letter, Ortiz said he was pledging allegiance while taking the video and that even though the test listed him as a non-Hispanic black, he was counted as a Hispanic male. On Wednesday he produced a screen grab supporting his claim.

As for his beliefs about Najiy, a 32-year veteran promoted amid hoopla last year, Ortiz refused to relent.

“Religious and political views have no business being reflected when wearing a police uniform,” Ortiz wrote in response to Moore’s letter. “There are plenty of police officers in our department that practice the Muslim faith and pledge allegiance to our country and have a problem with her defiance towards the United States.”

Najiy, despite repeated requests for an interview, has refused to publicly comment on the controversy.

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