A Brotherly Imbroglio

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

A week later the SAO opened an investigation.
On a December 4 application for several search warrants, the SAO labeled Rolando Jr.'s arrest report "false." Judge Robert N. Scola, Jr., granted the warrants and prosecutors confiscated Daniel Bolanos's black boots and a red handkerchief. They also took the rear seat, rear floorboard and right door panel from Rolando Bolanos, Jr.'s police cruiser, along with two pairs of rubber gloves and a black watch. "If they match Pacheco's blood on any of those items, they're in deep trouble," Pacheco's lawyer, Alan Soven says.

Defense lawyers Sam Rabin and Michael Band say they are confident the investigation will show the brothers acted lawfully.

On January 8, while prosecutors were investigating Pacheco's claims, the brothers were involved in another allegedly violent conflict. Jorge Bustamante, a 34-year-old Domino's Pizza manager with a 1996 conviction for petty theft, was arguing with a bartender at the Ramada Inn in Hialeah. He claims the brothers marched in, pushed him to the ground, handcuffed him, and dragged him outside.

Bustamante's lawyer, Bernard Butts, says he has gathered the following testimony: Three witnesses say they saw the brothers beating a handcuffed Bustamante. One Ramada employee contends he heard fists pounding Bustamante. And a bar patron describes how he followed the cops outside only to be threatened with arrest.

The Hialeah police department argues that Bustamante became confrontational. They charged him with battery against a police officer and two counts of resisting an officer with violence. The case is pending.

Cairo Gutierrez's story differs somewhat from those of Pacheco and Butts. The 41-year-old says the cops pulled him over on the evening of May 21. He and an eighteen-year-old female friend were cruising slowly around the Seminola neighborhood, allegedly searching for a man selling a bike. Police say the area is known for drug sales.

Ofcrs. Daniel Bolanos and Carl Zogby charged Gutierrez with resisting arrest. They released the driver. Gutierrez says the officers then beat him while he was handcuffed. Hialeah's internal affairs investigated the claim and, citing medical examinations that didn't show any injuries, decided the allegations were unfounded.

In mid-February the department removed the brothers from patrol pending the outcome of the state attorney's investigation. So far prosecutors have subpoenaed several officers and reviewed dozens of arrest reports filed by the Bolanos brothers, according to police sources.

When state prosecutors heard about Pacheco's accusations, they took over the investigation. "We wanted to avoid the appearance of impropriety," attests William Altfield, the assistant state attorney handling the case. He declined comment on specifics of the probe.

The department couldn't be trusted to conduct an impartial investigation, adds Pacheco's attorney Alan Soven. FIU's Dario Moreno points out that the state's anti-nepotism law was meant to prevent such situations.

Florida statute 112.3135 mandates that no public official in a state, county, or city agency can "appoint, employ, promote, advance, or advocate for appointment, employment, or advancement ... [of] any individual who is a relative of the public official."

"The anti-nepotism statute in Florida is pretty weak and people have gotten around it in a host of ways," Moreno says. "It's become a joke." The law, he adds, was enacted to "give the appearance of fairness. Government jobs are sought after, they can be highly lucrative, and [it's the public's money]."

One prominent example of the steps some government employees will take to avoid violating the law occurred in 1993, when Katherine Fernandez Rundle became state attorney. Rundle's husband, then-Assistant State Attorney Chris Rundle, resigned to avoid being supervised by his wife.

The Hialeah City Attorney's Office maintains there was nothing wrong with the Bolanos brothers' hiring. Mayor Raul Martinez has the final say on all personnel decisions.

On February 11 Chief Bolanos and Mayor Martinez swore in 23 new Hialeah police officers. It was the largest cadet class in department history. The officers sat straight and solemn in the city hall auditorium. Relatives and soon-to-be fellow officers filtered in. In the hallway banquet tables held soda and trays of pasteles and croquetas. From the podium Chief Bolanos smiled benignly and welcomed his new charges. "It is my honor at this time to introduce my friend, your boss, the mayor of Hialeah ..."

Martinez, in a pressed suit, stepped up and swore in the officers. Then he told them: "When we started the hiring process I was told no one wanted to work in the city of Hialeah. But we have not, and will never, lower our standards. This is not just the biggest class, this is the best. I'm proud to have you here.

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