Miami Beach Police officer Mike Muley was walking his dog outside his Davie home in the summer of 2002 when he heard a vehicle careen into a canal. Muley raced to the scene and found a submerged car. He jumped in.
Barely able to see through the soupish liquid, Muley pulled a person out of the vehicle to safety. He dove in again and saved a second person. A third drowned. Muley received one of the department’s highest honors, the Medal of Valor, and was named Miami Beach officer of the year.
Nine years later, Muley, then a sergeant, was demoted in one of the department’s most embarrassing incidents: An officer under his control took a bride-to-be for a moonlit joyride on a city ATV and ran over two people on the beach. They were badly injured.
The two incidents offer a glimpse into the career of Miami Beach police Sgt. Mike Muley, whose suspension Monday for suspicion of drinking while working an off-duty assignment at a Miami Beach nightclub triggered the city’s new police chief to halt off-duty work for all officers at 14 Beach nightclubs.
Muley’s 14 years on the force are pockmarked with heady evaluations, awards for public service, some even while not in uniform, and commendations from the public and his bosses. Despite the accolades, he’s been disciplined at least three times for what appear to be judgment lapses.
Muley, 45, became the latest Miami Beach police officer to make headlines, continuing a string of embarrassing — and sometimes deadly gaffes — that have hampered the 381-member force.
Muley was relieved of duty with pay Monday pending an internal investigation after an anonymous caller said Muley appeared drunk while working an off-duty shift at Mango’s Tropical Cafe on Ocean Drive. After being observed by police, Chief Dan Oates — brought in only a month ago to clean up the department’s image — suspended Muley.
The next day, he froze all off-duty assignments at Mango’s and 13 similar clubs pending departmental review. The plum assignments, which involve about two dozen cops, pay an average of $45 an hour. Just under a quarter of the money goes to city coffers.
Critics say the move will hamper policing efforts as patrol officers will have to respond to the thousands of yearly calls from the clubs. Oates’ actions came after an external audit recommended restructuring the off-duty jobs, which the report said could steal loyalty from officers who work at a single assignment for too long.
For those he’s worked with and worked for, Muley is praised.
“We've known him for many years and he's worked off-duty for us for many, many years. We're very surprised and saddened,” said Joshua Wallack, owner of Mango’s. “From what we know, he is a great human being.”
Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Grieco called Muley’s police work exemplary: “I can say that I know Sgt. Muley well, as we worked together for many years during my time as a gang prosecutor. I have nothing but positive things to say about him as both a man and an officer.”
In 2005 Muley received a second Medal of Valor, this time for subduing the 300-plus pound Oakland Raiders offensive lineman Barret Robbins after he injured several police officers during an after-hours fracas in a hallway near the Playwright Pub on Miami Beach. Despite being beaten by Robbins, Muley managed to shoot him. Robbins barely survived.
Still, Muley has received disciplinary warnings at least three times, once in 2002 for not attending court, again in 2004 for not showing up for roll call during a hurricane, and again in 2011, when he didn’t pass along a citizen’s complaint against a fellow officer to Internal Affairs.
In performance reviews, Muley’s supervisors describe him as “one of the hardest working police officers in the police department,” and “cool, calm, and collected” in stressful situations. The sergeant has been praised for his work addressing gangs and street crime, and for helping a needy family during the holidays. In 2005, he was recognized for perfect attendance.
On Monday, after the 911 call and after officers showed up to observe him at Mango’s, Muley was transported by Miami Beach Fire Rescue to Mount Sinai Medical Center, where it is believed he underwent a toxicology test. The results haven’t been released. Other tests at the hospital revealed something else that was very wrong with Muley, his attorney Eugene Gibbons said Wednesday.
Gibbons said his client is scheduled for surgery Thursday morning and has been dealing with medical issues for about five years. He wouldn’t elaborate.
“He has a long history of vomiting due to medical problems,” said Gibbons. “Whatever somebody else may interpret it to be, that’s fine, we’ll deal with it. The facts are, he was transported by fire rescue, admitted to the emergency room and has been there ever since. And he has major medical surgery scheduled for tomorrow.”
Muley joined the Miami Beach Police Department in 2000 after working as a Tallahassee detective for eight years. He worked his way to sergeant in 2008 and earns $87,000.
Besides Monday’s incident, the only real blemish on his Miami Beach record was the handling of the ATV incident. Muley was one of several sergeants supervising Derick Kuilan, who, while on duty and in uniform, partied at the Clevelander bar with a fellow on-duty officer and bachelorette, took her on a joy ride in his city-issued ATV, then ran over two people on the beach in the pre-dawn hours of July 3, 2011. Last week, Kuilan, who was fired, was sentenced to 18 months in prison.
Muley was demoted to patrol officer and suspended without pay for 80 hours after it was determined he allowed Kuilan to complete a SWAT workout that delayed his start time by more than an hour. Muley was 30 minutes late for his shift the evening of the accident.
“Your lack of supervision and gross negligence as described herein renders you unfit to hold the supervisory position of sergeant of police...” the city said in its final order to Muley.
An arbitrator overturned the decision after a grievance hearing, and Muley got his stripes back. The arbitrator determined Muley did not violate procedure by allowing Kuilan his workout time.
Alex Bello, the police union president, said it’s premature to judge Muley before the investigation into his Mango’s assignment is complete. As for his actions the day Kuilan injured the couple, Bello chalked it up to dirty politics.
“He was one of many supervisors that night,” said Bello. “It was political. This was a major incident and they had to show people someone was at fault.”
Former city manger Jorge Gonzalez sees it differently: “With these two officers in particular, I was convinced that they were doing it so overtly, that others had to know— that other police officers in the ranks had to know that officers are drinking in public and nothing is being done about it. That’s why I said, ‘We have to make the people [in charge] responsible.’ ”