Crime

15 Sweetwater cops let go as new chief about to be sworn in

Sweetwater City Hall on Tuesday, August 6, 2013.  FBI agents have arrested Sweetwater Mayor Manuel "Manny" Maroâ“o at their City Hall offices on bribery-related charges.
Sweetwater City Hall on Tuesday, August 6, 2013. FBI agents have arrested Sweetwater Mayor Manuel "Manny" Maroâ“o at their City Hall offices on bribery-related charges. Miami Herald Staff

Sweetwater, a small town on the western edge of Miami-Dade County, laid off 15 police officers last weekend — hours before a new chief was sworn in Monday afternoon.

The officers — two full-time, the rest part-time and reserve — make up a significant chunk of the 42-person full-time force that has been without a chief since Jesus “Jessie” Menocal resigned earlier this month.

Early Monday afternoon, the city had not given a reason for the layoffs. The numbers were confirmed by former Miami detective Aquiles Carmona, who said he will attain the rank of major in Sweetwater once Placido Diaz is sworn in as new chief.

Menocal, who was named chief in October 2013, stepped down as Orlando Lopez was being sworn in as city’s new mayor last week. Lopez had said during his campaign that he would replace the police chief.

Menocal replaced Chief Roberto Fulgeira, who left during an FBI probe into abuse of power and fraud.

Sweetwater Police Detective William Garcia was suspended without pay in August 2013 during the probe, after being accused of credit card fraud and identity theft. He was accused of using phony credit cards in Miami Beach and in Key Largo. A week later, Detective Octavio Oliu and Acting Sgt. Reny Garcia were relieved of duty. The city never gave an explanation for the firings.

Diaz, who is expected to be sworn in at 4 p.m., worked his way up to sergeant in Miami, before leaving to undertake a personal business venture. He returned to the staff of Miami Commissioner Wifredo “Willy” Gort, who was elected in 2011.

Later, Diaz left Gort to oversee as a civilian the city’s implementation of its red-light camera system.

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