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
His son's felony arrest and budding criminal career may have escaped the police chief's attention, but at least he was aware the boy was having problems. "My son and I had a strained relationship," the elder Bolaños explained. "I wanted him to go into the military. I wanted him out of the house. I didn't want him in the streets." In April 1990, a year after the auto-theft arrest, Bolaños Jr. joined the Marine Corps.
According to the SAO's investigation, however, even the military couldn't control him. In March 1994, while stationed in St. Marys, Georgia, Bolaños Jr. allegedly attacked a man, who complained to police. Officers obtained a warrant for Bolaños's arrest, but before they officially charged him, the case was dropped. In another incident later that year, St. Marys police did arrest Bolaños on a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence. He pleaded guilty and paid a $445 fine. Chief Bolaños said during the interview with prosecutors that while the drunk-driving arrest showed up when Hialeah police conducted a background check on his son, the battery complaint and arrest warrant did not. (At most large police departments, such as City of Miami and Miami-Dade County, even a simple arrest is enough to disqualify an officer candidate from being hired.)
In late 1996 Rolando Bolaños's brother Daniel applied for employment with the City of Miami Police Department. Chief Bolaños recounted to prosecutors that his son said the Miami department offered him a job, but he declined because he was more interested in working in Hialeah.
Assistant State Attorney William Altfield pointedly noted that the record reflected differently: "Were you aware that he was disqualified by the City of Miami ... for steroid use?"
Chief Bolaños: "No."
Altfield: "He was disqualified on 1/06/97 regarding use within -- I think it says the last five years.... Did he admit to you about the steroid use?"
Chief Bolaños: "Absolutely.... It was when he was sixteen, seventeen years old. He was still in high school. He was on the varsity baseball team."
The brothers' qualifications aside, their employment with the Hialeah Police Department was problematic in another way: It barely skirted Florida's nepotism law prohibiting public officials from hiring and supervising immediate family members. Chief Bolaños claimed it was Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez's decision to hire the brothers as police officers. "I had a discussion with the mayor," the 48-year-old chief recalled. "The mayor wanted to know how Danny was doing. I told him he was fine; he was in the process of applying for the City of Miami. He said he wanted Danny to come over with him. I said okay."
Then the mayor asked about Rolando Jr. "He told me to have him apply, too," the chief said. "[The mayor] would call the personnel director and he would have them put in the process." The city attorney's office studied the issue and advised that it did not appear to violate the nepotism law, because the mayor officially hires all police officers.
Neither questionable backgrounds nor nepotism laws presented insurmountable problems for the brothers, but the fact that they are the chief's sons was another matter. Even before they were charged with a crime, they were suspected of being coddled by their father. In an April 1998 memo first published in New Times ("Brotherly Imbroglio," March 4, 1999), the chief instructed two lieutenants to keep an eye on Daniel: "Please speak to him, and tone him down somewhat so that he does not get himself hurt or someone else."
Critics of Chief Bolaños say the perceived protection his sons enjoyed emboldened them to behave with impunity. "This investigation into the chief's sons -- this is not surprising to any of us," one Hialeah officer told New Times last year. "Everybody was saying, 'Hey, these guys get into a lot of fights.'"
After the SAO launched its probe, the perception that the sons were being protected only increased. That's when the chief came under suspicion of rewarding officers who supported his sons' version of events. For instance Chief Bolaños recounted how the sergeant on duty the night of the Yoel Pacheco beating later was transferred to a position on the popular narcotics squad, even though he had violated procedures by not calling paramedics to tend to Pacheco's wounds. According to the chief, his son Rolando Jr. told Sgt. Gary Galle: "'Hey, sarge, this guy is banging his head on the cell and he's got a cut on his head but he's refusing rescue.' Galle said, 'If he doesn't want rescue, fuck him.'"
Prosecutor Altfield asked the chief if it was a violation of department policy not to call paramedics and for the sergeant not to respond to an injured prisoner. "Absolutely," the chief affirmed.
Altfield continued: "Shortly thereafter he was given the assignment of narcotics?"
Chief Bolaños: "Yes, sir."
Altfield: "Would you agree with me that this is a coveted position by many officers?"
Chief Bolaños: "Oh, absolutely."
Altfield: "Why is it, then, that you had given Sergeant Galle that assignment, being that he is the youngest sergeant in seniority, knowing ... he was derelict in his duties?"