One-stop Cop Shop

Nelson Long was the undisputed king of hiring Miami Beach police officers for off-duty jobs. Kings, of course, often don't bother with rules and regulations.

Several production coordinators who worked directly with Long say they would pay him a lump sum for all the services he provided, and then he would pay the off-duty officers and other subcontractors directly. He would factor in a charge for his own time and expenses, as well, the coordinators say.

But even though Long may have been the production industry's best friend, Miami Beach police officials now regard his legacy a little more circumspectly. Sgt. Gary Bergert says his former colleague was operating with little accountability while on the force and acquired even more autonomy after his retirement. As production companies continued to go directly to Long for off-duty help, Bergert says, Long would contact officers himself, cutting the police department's administration out of the loop.

This scheme operated with the consent of the city manager's office. The city's film and print coordinator, Robert Reboso, who works under the supervision of City Manager Roger Carlton, says he referred production companies to Long if they needed off-duty personnel to comply with the requirements of a city-issue film permit. "It was my understanding that this was being done with the blessing of the police department," Reboso explains. "Everything was going as before [Long's retirement]. I was under the impression that he was doing the paperwork, collecting the administrative fees."

But city documents indicate that this wasn't happening. For example, records in the city manager's office reveal that during the first three months of 1994 Reboso put Long in charge of coordinating police services for at least 40 productions in Miami Beach. Among those that occurred in January -- fifteen in all -- only seven were recorded with the Off-Duty Employment Office, and administrative fees were collected for just two. In addition to the possibility that Long failed to report the whereabouts of off-duty officers -- a departmental policy -- these discrepancies may also be attributed to inefficient record-keeping and last-second alterations in production schedules. "I met Nelson Long personally twice," Captain Conwell says. "I was assured by Nelson Long that he was working with [the Off-Duty Employment Office] and that everything was properly documented."

Conwell explains that the department wants to know where its off-duty officers are at all times for insurance-liability purposes and in order to confirm whether an administrative fee had been paid for particular jobs. Longstanding police department rules prohibit a police officer from working an off-duty job without the approval and knowledge of the Off-Duty Employment Office. If he does, he can be subject to disciplinary action and risks losing his ability to work off-duty. (Conwell says he knows of no police officer who was disciplined for working directly for Long.)

Long's enterprise crumbled this past March when Bergert and another police official met with the off-duty fixer and told him he wasn't allowed to employ off-duty officers without the department's prior consent. The officers also met with film coordinator Reboso and clarified the city's policies, instructing him to refer all requests for off-duty officers directly to the police department instead of through unauthorized private firms or individuals such as Long. According to police officials and Reboso, Long promptly extracted himself from the production industry. (He was unreachable for comment regarding this story.)

"I think he was hoping the industry would collapse without him," says one location manager. "And people in the business were losing a lot of sleep during the transition." But the off-duty system didn't fall apart in Long's absence; industry officials say the police department has ably taken up the task. "It's almost as if Nelson is still here," the location manager says. With two ongoing investigations Long's legacy will live for at least a little while longer.

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