A Brotherly Imbroglio

Hialeah police chief Rolando Bolanos has two sons on the force. Both are being investigated for violent behavior.

Frustration caused by these changes may have prompted someone to go after Daniel Bolanos. In January 1998 the younger brother entered his cruiser after placing a prisoner in the back seat. At some point after starting the car he was hit in the face with pepper spray. Bolanos Sr. told the press it appeared someone had rigged a pepper-spray canister to the car's ventilation system.

But officers who claim to be familiar with the incident say it was a practical joke. Someone sprayed the irritant onto the door handle. "Cops do this to each other all the time," argues one of the anonymous officers. "It may be stupid, but we play jokes. Someone may put fingerprint powder in an air vent, or toss a water balloon. It's a way of seeing what you're made of. In this case we found out. [Bolanos] went running to daddy."

Rolando Bolanos, Jr., has had somewhat more success than his brother. He almost immediately impressed his superiors. After just over a year on the force, he was selected for Field Training Officer school, a choice assignment according to several officers. Some Bolanos critics claim favoritism: "I know guys with twenty years on the job who got turned down for FTO school," says one officer.

This past November Rolando Jr. was selected as Hialeah's officer of the month for stopping several burglaries in progress. The rookie racked up 271 arrests his first year. (His brother came in second among all patrolmen with 201 arrests.) The department maintains Chief Bolanos didn't participate in the selection process.

But the chief did write a December 8 memo nominating his son as the PBA officer of the month for all of Miami-Dade. (Because the two awards are distinct, it is possible to win both.) "Officer Rolando A. Bolanos's actions are worthy of special recognition," the father wrote to union chief John Rivera. Bolanos Jr. was ineligible for the countywide award because he is not a PBA member.

A Hialeah supervisor, who spoke on condition of anonymity, says Rolando Jr. won the city's award fair and square. "Look, the department's a mess in a lot of ways, but as far as I know, [Bolanos Jr.] is a good cop."

Indications are that Daniel Bolanos wasn't doing as well. In a confidential memo obtained by New Times, the chief requested that two lieutenants pay special attention to the younger brother:

"To: Hernandez, Carlos M., Garcia, James
From: Bolanos, Rolando D.
Subject: Danny Bolanos
Date: 4/27/98 Time: 11:15 a.m.

Gentlemen: On a personal note. I know that Danny is going to be a great cop some day and I know that he wants to do good by the Department and me. But, I am concerned that he may be a bit hyper. Please speak to him and 'tone him down somewhat' so that he does not get himself hurt or someone else. Thanks on behalf of Abbey [Danny's mother] and myself."

Hialeah spokesman Frank Gonzalez declined to comment on the memo.
This past June Daniel Bolanos was chasing a truck he suspected was stolen. By radio his supervisor ordered the young officer to quit the pursuit. (Police departments throughout the county forbid officers from participating in high-speed chases unless violent crime suspects are involved.) Bolanos apparently ignored the order seven times, according to an internal review. "Danny did everything right except that he disobeyed a lawful order by failing to disengage and return," Chief Bolanos told the Herald. Though police brass recommended 80 hours of suspension, the penalty was reduced to 40 hours.

Chief Bolanos's role in the discipline is unclear. Under department policy he reviews all disciplinary action, but Mayor Martinez issues the final orders.

Yoel Pacheco's case represents the most highly publicized threat to the Bolanos brothers' careers. The following description of Pacheco's alleged beating is drawn from his statement to state prosecutors:

On November 29, 1998, at about 3:00 a.m., Pacheco received a call from his cousin. She complained that her husband was drunk and arguing with her. Pacheco then drove to his cousin's house with his wife. After someone called the police, the Bolanos brothers arrived in separate patrol cars. One of the brothers asked whether there was a problem. Pacheco replied that he was taking care of the situation. Then Pacheco claims he heard an officer call his wife a liar. He countered that she was telling the truth.

Pacheco says that one of the brothers told him to shut his mouth. When Pacheco announced he was leaving, Rolando Bolanos, Jr., handcuffed him and tossed him into a cruiser.

Next, according to Pacheco's statement, he was transported to an empty, unlit parking lot. Rolando Bolanos, Jr., put on gloves and advised Pacheco they were going to fight. Then Daniel Bolanos drove up. Pacheco noticed the other Bolanos brother also slipping on gloves. The officers proceeded to punch and kick Pacheco until both his eyes swelled shut. One of the brothers stamped on his head with a boot.

The police report Rolando Jr. filed that night does not mention a stop at a parking lot. According to the document, the brothers returned to the station with Pacheco. As they were transferring him to a cell, Pacheco "pulled away his free arm, and began to throw punches. Defendant [Pacheco] then backed up into a corner and began screaming 'I'm going to kill you.' Myself and Ofcr. D. Bolanos ... attempted to restrain the defendant."

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