Two days after a court ruling disqualified the candidacy of the mayor of Sweetwater, the city’s police chief announced he will step down.
Sweetwater Mayor Jose M. Diaz told el Nuevo Herald that Police Chief Jesus “Jesse” Menocal said he will turn in his resignation.
“Chief Menocal is an honorable man who has extraordinary experience and was able to lift the morale in the Sweetwater Police Department,” Diaz said. “We turned a department full of problems over to him and in a short amount of time he fixed many of the issues [...] I’m thankful for his service. There are few police officers with the experience that Menocal has.”
Menocal didn’t respond to several interview requests from el Nuevo Herald.
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Orlando Lopez, a mayoral candidate whose lawsuit resulted in Diaz’s disqualification, told el Nuevo Herald that if he wins the election and becomes mayor, one of his first governing actions would be to name a new police chief. However, Lopez said his intention was not to fire Menocal.
The other mayoral candidates, Deborah Centeno and Douglas Mayorga, said that if they win the election they would also make changes within the high-ranking officials in the police department.
Menocal became Sweetwater police chief in October 2013, upon Roberto Fulgueira’s exit in the midst of an FBI police investigation against the police department for abuse of power and fraud allegations.
Months before, the FBI arrested then-Mayor Manuel “Manny” Maroño on corruption charges. Maroño was sentenced to three years in prison by a federal court.
In 1986, Menocal was employed by Sweetwater, after having worked for two years as an agent in the Florida prisons department. His twin brother, Ignacio, also works for the Sweetwater Police Department.
Menocal had led the same department in the 1990s. In 2003, Menocal referred a case of alleged police brutality to Miami-Dade state attorney’s office. Several Sweetwater police officers and then-Mayor Maroño were accused of being involved in the brutal beating of an 18-year-old inside the police station and in the mayor’s vehicle. A short time after, Maroño demoted Menocal.
Menocal has also been an instructor in police academies and at Miami Dade College for the past 25 years.
Follow Brenda Medina and Enrique Flor on Twitter @BrendaMedinar @kikeflor