Florida Cops Allegedly Told To Pin Unsolved Crimes On Black People Under Former Police Chief
One officer has accused the department of instructing cops to target black people for unsolved cases.
Police officers working in Biscayne Park, a small village near Miami, Florida, were allegedly instructed to pin unsolved crimes on black people with "somewhat of a record," an investigation revealed, according to a report by The Miami Herald.
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Raimundo Atesiano, a former Biscayne Park police chief, had been indicted in June, along with fellow officers, on accusations that they falsely pinned four burglaries on a teenager to achieve a 100 percent burglary clearance rate. But since the indictment, The Herald has uncovered more troubling accusations regarding the department's past police practices.
The newspaper obtained records that suggested during Atesiano's tenure officers were told to target random black people for unsolved cases.
According to The Herald, police officer Anthony De La Torre said in a 2014 investigation that police officers were told to arrest random black people if they had "somewhat of a record."
"If they have burglaries that are open cases that are not solved yet, if you see anybody black walking through our streets and they have somewhat of a record, arrest them so we can pin them for all the burglaries,” he said. “They were basically doing this to have a 100 [percent] clearance rate for the city.”
Biscayne Park is a small village comprised of just over 3,000 people. Its police department is relatively small with 12 police officers on the force at the time of the 2014 investigation. The Herald reports that one-third of those officers told an outside investigator the officers were indeed instructed to file fraudulent charges to help the department's crime stats.
Only De La Torre specifically mentioned the targeting of black people, though a former Biscayne Park village told The Herald she had received letters from disgruntled officers who alleged similar racially charged practices at that time.
"The letters said police were doing a lot of bad things,” Heidi Shafran said. “It said police officers were directed to pick up people of color and blame the crimes on them.”
While the indictment against Atesiano and two of his former officers, Raul Fernandez and Charlie Dayoub, does not raise racial profiling accusations, The Herald reports, the teenager, who they've been accused of falsely pinning four burglaries on, is Haitian-American.
Atesiano, Fernandez and Dayoub have all pleaded not guilty in the federal case and are now awaiting trial. Atesiano and his former second in command, Capt. Lawrence Churchman, have both denied--both in 2014 and more recently to The Herald--that officers were pressured to target black people.
"Encouraging, or even demanding, that public employees raise their performance levels to meet the citizens’ expectations is not an invitation for those public employees to cut corners or falsify documents,” Atesiano's defense attorney, Richard Docobo, told The Herald.
Also in 2014, a private investigation revealed complaints from officers who accused Churchman of having disdain for minorities and for using racial, homophobic and gender slurs. Through his attorney, Churchman denied those claims to The Herald saying it was a "ridiculous lie."
Both Churchman and Atesiano left the department in 2014 amid investigations.
Following Atesiano's resignation, stats in Biscayne Park had shifted. Whereas Atesiano formerly boasted 100 percent clearance rates in 2013 at a commission meeting, none of village's 19 burglary cases were cleared the year after he left, according to The Herald.
According to The Herald, another case involving the department's arrest of a black person is currently being investigated. In 2014, Biscayne Park officers reportedly arrested a 35-year-old black transient man who was charged with five vehicle burglaries. Prosecutors immediately dropped the charges when officers failed to cooperate, The Herald reports.
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