Hialeah police officer is suspended after a 17-year-old girl says he harassed her

El Nuevo Herald

A Hialeah police officer is accused of harassing a 17-year-old girl, Hialeah Police Chief Sergio Velázquez said on Thursday.

Sgt. Jesús “Jesse” Menocal Jr. stopped the minor and her girlfriend after they made an illegal U-turn. The women were taken to the Hialeah central police station and one of them complained that she was harassed, according to a news report by WSVN-Channel 7 News.

Miami Herald news partner CBS4 interviewed the 17-year-old, who did not want to be identified. She said that Menocal Jr. told her “to take off my pants or I was going to get arrested.’’ She also told CBS 4 that Menocal Jr. told her to take off her shirt and bra and that she refused. He then released her and she returned to the car where her girlfriend, a 20-year-old woman, was waiting, she told CBS 4.

Menocal Jr., a Hialeah SWAT team officer with eight years in the department, is under investigation and was suspended with pay on Sunday, Velázquez said.

Velázquez also said that Hialeah police leaders met on Monday with the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office to coordinate the delivery of evidence as the investigation moves forward.

“This is a very delicate road … and we seek to be impartial,” said Velázquez. “Our job is to get to the bottom of this. If it is proven that there was wrongdoing, the appropriate decision will be taken. Otherwise, he will return to work.”

Menocal Jr. is the son of Jesús “Jesse” Menocal, who retired as Sweetwater police chief in May. He has not commented on the case.

On Thursday, Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández said he was confident that police were handling the investigation appropriately.

Velázquez said that he, attorney Hillah Méndez, legal counsel for Hialeah police, and high-ranking officers in the Internal Affairs Department met for nearly two hours on Monday morning with the state attorney’s Public Corruption Unit.

Following “the protocol for these cases,” Velázquez said that Menocal Jr.’s weapon was removed, he was relieved of his assigned patrol, and that his keys were turned in to his bosses.

“Removing a police officer is a difficult decision,” Velázquez said. “But this decision is taken because the allegation about his conduct is very serious and what we pursue is to protect our community.”

Velázquez said Menocal Jr. has an impeccable record; he was promoted to sergeant a year ago.

“He has proven to be a 100-percent proactive officer, which is why I was surprised,” Velázquez said. “Yet when facing a situation like this we must reassure people’s trust and be clear that if there is this type of allegation, we will address it in a very serious manner.”