(NEW YORK POST) – A former police chief in Florida allegedly pressured some officers to frame “anybody black” for unrelated crimes so the department could boast perfect crime stats, according to an internal probe of the small-town department.
Records obtained by the Miami Herald indicate that high-ranking officers in the Biscayne Park Police Department pressured some cops to make unwarranted arrests of random black people in order to better the department’s crime stats, one cop told an outside investigator in 2014.
“’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,’” Officer Anthony De La Torre said he was told. “They were basically doing this to have a 100% clearance rate for the city.”
Another of the officers, Omar Martinez, told investigators in a statement that he wouldn’t carry out those “illegal and unethical” orders.
“I will not arrest an innocent person to make the department look good,” Martinez later wrote the village’s manager.
In all, a total of four cops — or one-third of the small force in the 3,000-resident village north of Miami Shores — claimed they were told to file false charges. Of those, only De La Torre said he was instructed to specifically target black people, but a former village manager who called for the probe after getting letters from concerned cops said the department’s orders weren’t a mystery.
“The letters said police were doing a lot of bad things,” Heidi Shafran told the Herald. “It said police officers were directed to pick up people of color and blame the crimes on them.”
The department’s chief at the time, Raimundo Atesiano, resigned amid the 2014 probe. During his two years overseeing the department, 29 of 30 burglary cases were solved. But in 2015, that near-perfect success rate plummeted, with not one single burglary case solved among 19 reported incidents, records show.
Atesiano and two of his former officers — Raul Fernandez and Charlie Dayoub — were charged by federal prosecutors last month with civil rights violations in US District Court in the Southern District of Florida. An indictment alleges that they conspired to falsely arrest a 16-year-old juvenile identified only as “T.D.” for four unsolved burglaries.
“Atesiano directed Dayoub and Fernandez to arrest T.D. on June 13, 2013, and falsely charge him with unsolved burglaries knowing that there was no evidence and no lawful basis to support such charges,” the Department of Justice announced in a news release. “The indictment further alleges that following Atesiano’s instruction, Dayoub and Fernandez gathered information for four unsolved burglary cases, completed four arrest affidavits for the burglaries, and included a false narrative that an investigation revealed that T.D. had committed the four burglaries of unoccupied dwellings.”
All three have pleaded not guilty and Atesiano’s attorney has denied the allegations, the Herald reports.
“Encouraging, or even demanding, that public employees raise their performance levels to meet the citizens’ expectation is not an invitation for those public employee to cut corners or falsify documents,” attorney Richard Docobo said.
Fernandez and Dayoub are now cooperating with federal prosecutors against their former boss, sources told the newspaper.
Records reviewed by the Herald show that “T.D.” is a black Haitian-American who lived with his family in an area of Biscayne Park referred to by cops as “The Badlands.” Prosecutors later dropped the burglary charges against the unnamed teen, as well as previous accusations of trespassing and raping a teen girl. The man, now 21, could not be reached for comment, the Herald reports.
A trial for Atesiano, Fernandez and Dayoub has been set for July 23, but is expected to be postponed, according to the newspaper. If convicted, they face a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison.