Miami Beach

With new rules, Miami Beach cops lose interest in guarding nightclubs

Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates was sworn in Wednesday, June 11, 2014. A New York Police Department veteran, Oates also led the Aurora Colo. police department during a mass shooting in a movie theater there. He took the reins from former Chief Raymond Martinez, who retired early after a political shift in City Hall.
Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates was sworn in Wednesday, June 11, 2014. A New York Police Department veteran, Oates also led the Aurora Colo. police department during a mass shooting in a movie theater there. He took the reins from former Chief Raymond Martinez, who retired early after a political shift in City Hall. MIAMI HERALD FILE

Fewer Miami Beach police officers have been volunteering for off-duty work on Ocean Drive after new rules were instituted to stop officers from working at the same club weekend after weekend.

Union leaders say the rank and file have not found the new rules enticing because of the rotation — a rule Police Chief Dan Oates says is necessary to prevent individual officers from developing a special relationship with individual clubs.

In a memo sent from City Manager Jimmy Morales to the City Commission this week, Morales wrote that three nightclubs have off-duty officers, six others have chosen not to renew off-duty work, and five clubs have gone without coverage because not enough officers have volunteered for the work. Those five are the Clevelander, Fat Tuesday’s, Mango’s, Ocean’s Ten and Wet Willie’s.

“They have expressed the willingness to pay for up to four officers a night to cover these clubs,” Morales wrote. “However, despite repeated offers to our police officers of such work and despite several adjustments of the hours and assignments to entice interest, the department has been unable to to get sufficient numbers officers to volunteer for this nightclub work on Ocean Drive.”

Because of the decreased interest, the police department has stopped trying to coordinate the off-duty jobs for its officers.

“The Ocean Drive Association has been informed that because of the staffing problem, for the time being, the department is dropping further efforts to fill the Ocean Drive off-duty nightclub assignments,” reads the memo.

The policy changes to off-duty police work in the Beach stem from a July incident where an anonymous 911 caller complained that Sgt. Mike Muley — a decorated, 14-year veteran of the force — appeared to be drunk during an off-duty shift at Mango’s Tropical Cafe. Muley was suspended and an internal affairs investigation was launched.

Muley remains on paid administrative leave. Oates said the investigation is almost complete.

After the incident, recently-arrived Oates immediately suspended all off-duty work for the department. In September, Oates announced new rules for off-duty details that included requiring officers to get training, rotate shifts among clubs and stay outside establishments unless a cop was needed inside. The change also mandated officers tell a supervisor the reason for entering a club over the radio.

These policies mirror the city of Miami’s rules.

Union leaders say the the lack of volunteers, reported earlier this week by the blog Random Pixels, is due to officers’ preferences on where to work.

“There are officers that don’t want to work a club job, but they’ll work at the Clevelander because it’s a different atmosphere,” said Alex Bello, the Beach’s Fraternal Order of Police president. “The uncertainty of not knowing where they’ll be assigned is what’s caused a lot problems.”

Oates told the Miami Herald he didn’t understand why cops would have a problem with the rotation.

“The rule was created to avoid the kind of close personal relationships between an individual officer and an individual establishment that might lead to abuse,” he said. “It’s a completely sensible rule.”

He also emphasized that the department has long had problems with filling off-duty work. Officers from other departments are not allowed to do off-duty work in Miami Beach.

With fewer volunteers now, Oates doesn’t feel it’s his responsibility to spend extra effort attracting off-duty work.

In the same memo to commissioners, Morales wrote the department is experimenting with a new patrol team made up of one sergeant and two officers to work overnight Thursday through Sunday covering Ocean Drive from Fifth Street to 15th Street, as well as Lummus Park and Beach Walk.

“These nightclubs are not specifically assigned to to the nightclubs concentrated between Seventh and 11th on Ocean Drive,” Morales wrote. “However, because that area has the highest density of crowds on the overnight shift, it will be a natural focus of the team’s attention.”

This new patrol team started working Halloween weekend.

Marlo Courtney, chairman of the Ocean Drive Business Association, said Friday that he has noticed the clubs have more private security on the weekends lately.

“From what I see, out on the street, it seems that the individual clubs have beefed up their private security,” he said. “And a significant increase of police out on Ocean Drive.”

He added that the new patrols have provided more comfort.

“Having a dedicated squad that’s out there during the weekends is definitely a positive for Ocean drive,” he said. “For the tourists, businesses and residents.”

Follow @joeflech on Twitter.

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