By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
In 1997 the Hialeah Police Department hired as officers a convicted car thief and a man rejected by the City of Miami Police Department as a result of admitted steroid use. Somehow the background checks Hialeah conducted did not uncover this information. In a sworn statement, Hialeah Police Chief Rolando Bolaños, Sr., said he was unaware of the two men's histories. With 342 officers under his supervision, such a lapse might be understandable if not for one complicating factor: The two cops are Chief Bolaños's sons.
Rolando Bolaños, Jr., pleaded guilty to a charge of grand theft auto, a felony, when he was seventeen years old. Police in Miami-Dade County also arrested him for assault, again while he was a juvenile. In addition Bolaños Jr. pleaded guilty in Georgia to a charge of drunk driving.
Rolando's younger brother Daniel sought to join the Miami Police Department three years ago but was rejected because he admitted taking illegal steroids within five years of his application.
Chief Bolaños, who has headed Miami-Dade County's third-largest police force for the past twelve years, claims not to have known these details and other information that should have disqualified at least one son, if not both, from joining his department. His purported ignorance was revealed last summer during interviews with prosecutors from the public corruption unit of the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office (SAO) who were investigating brutality complaints brought against the brothers. New Times recently obtained transcripts of those interviews.
The brutality complaints date from late November 1998, when Yoel Pacheco, a 23-year-old Hialeah resident, was attempting to break up a domestic quarrel between his cousin and her husband at the couple's house. In response to a call, the Bolaños brothers rushed to the home in separate squad cars and ordered Pacheco to leave. A police report states that Pacheco disobeyed their order and became unruly, an assertion Pacheco has denied.
Rolando Bolaños, Jr., arrested Pacheco and placed him in his patrol car. According to SAO investigators, Bolaños, who was 26 years old at the time, then drove to a parking lot, where his 22-year-old brother Daniel joined him. The brothers donned gloves and, Pacheco says, severely beat him.
After Pacheco's allegations were made public, eight other individuals came forward to claim that one or both of the brothers had beaten them as well. The SAO launched an investigation and discovered corroborating evidence, such as a boot print on Pacheco's head that matched footwear belonging to one of the Bolaños brothers. In July of last year, a grand jury indicted the brothers on felony charges of official misconduct and battery. Their trial is scheduled to begin February 22. (The Bolaños brothers have denied Pacheco's allegations and maintain that he injured himself by intentionally banging his head against a wall as they were jailing him.)
Shortly before the indictments were issued, the SAO's public-corruption prosecutors Joe Centorino and William Altfield met twice with Chief Bolaños. The sworn testimony they elicited from him raised troubling questions about the propriety of the chief hiring his sons and whether he conspired to cover up their alleged crimes after the Pacheco incident. The State Attorney's Office did not gather enough evidence to sustain criminal charges against the chief, however, and closed the case last week.
Still, the tone of the interviews clearly unnerved Bolaños. "From your line of questioning," he said at one point, "I think I sit here as your subject in this investigation. You will forgive me if I feel very strongly about that." Centorino and Altfield didn't respond to the chief's indignation. Instead they enlightened him about his sons' criminal histories.
According to the prosecutors, in early 1989 Rolando Bolaños, Jr., was arrested in Dade County for aggravated assault. On March 22 prosecutors dropped the case. Bolaños was a juvenile at the time and records of that incident remain sealed.
A few weeks later, on April 12, 1989, Bolaños Jr. was arrested again, this time for breaking into a Cadillac dealership in Broward County. Although still a juvenile (he was a few months shy of his eighteenth birthday), he was charged with grand theft auto, a felony. In July of that year, he pleaded guilty after agreeing to a deal in which he testified in federal court against a car-theft ring with which he was involved.
Altfield confronted the chief: "Were you aware that he gave a confession to committing a variety of other auto thefts?"
"No," he responded. "You are absolutely flabbergasting me at this point. You need to talk to his mom. I'm sure she would remember."
Altfield continued: "On April 12th of 1989, at approximately four in the morning, were you aware that Rolando Bolaños, Jr., gave a confession -- and a very lengthy and detailed statement -- as to his involvement? ... Were you aware that he admitted to making $35,000 to $45,000 [stealing cars]?"
"No, absolutely not," Chief Bolaños replied.
The junior Bolaños was sentenced to probation and placed in "community control," which required him regularly to check in with a probation officer, according to Altfield. The chief professed ignorance of all this and claimed he had never chanced to speak with a probation officer who called his house, where his son was living at the time.