Big Daddy Denial

The truth is all relative to Hialeah Police Chief Rolando Bolaños

Back in 1989, when Rolando Bolaños, Jr., was seventeen years old, he was arrested and convicted of trying to break into a Fort Lauderdale Cadillac dealership. To reduce his sentence, Rollie, as he is known, cooperated with a police task force investigating a ring of car thieves. He met with detectives numerous times, and in December 1989 testified in federal court against the group's adult leaders. All the while he was living with his father, Rolando Bolaños, Sr., who was then and is now Hialeah's police chief.

When prosecutors questioned Chief Bolaños in July 1999 about Junior's arrest, he denied knowing anything about it. A lot was at stake. Rollie became a Hialeah cop in 1997, but didn't mention his conviction on his application form -- grounds for termination. If the chief knew about his son's past and allowed his hiring, at minimum he was violating departmental procedure. One might even conclude he lied under oath.

Indeed a half-dozen other witnesses, including friends, colleagues, even the chief's wife, told the State Attorney's Office last summer that Bolaños Sr. knew plenty about his son's misdeeds. According to one confidant, the chief even worried the arrest would thwart Rollie's chance to become a police officer.

Prosecutors took the witnesses' sworn statements last July, while investigating brutality complaints against Rollie and his brother Daniel, also a Hialeah police officer. The men are scheduled to be tried soon on charges of battery and official misconduct. (While on duty in 1998, they allegedly beat up a Hialeah man.)

Despite Chief Bolaños's apparent mendacity, it's clear he won't be sitting at a defense table any time soon. State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle says her office won't charge the chief with perjury. Although she refrains from drawing a conclusion about truthfulness, she explains the law allows prosecutors to charge a defendant with perjury only if a lie might affect the outcome of a case.

Prosecutor William Altfield recently briefed Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez about the chief's statements. "It's up to the mayor to do what, if anything, is appropriate," Fernandez Rundle adds. Martinez declined to comment.

But John Rivera, president of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association and a long-time foe of Bolaños, Martinez, and Fernandez Rundle, says the chief is receiving special treatment. "If this were anybody other than Rolando Bolaños, I guarantee you they would be charged with perjury," Rivera fumes.

Before interviewing Bolaños Sr., Altfield, or someone present, required the chief to recite a law-enforcement mantra, "Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth so help you God?" Presumably he answered in the affirmative. Then the interview began.

Altfield: Were you aware that Rolando Bolanos, Jr., was arrested in Broward County?

Chief Bolaños: No, sir.

Altfield: Not at all?

Chief Bolaños: Not at all

Altfield: Were you aware that he had any contact whatsoever with the law-enforcement community regarding allegations of auto theft?

Chief Bolaños: No, sir.

Altfield: Were you aware that Rolando Bolanos, Jr., was arrested and convicted on July 7 of 1989 for burglary of a structure or conveyence[sic], possession of burglary tools, grand theft auto, and loitering and prowling? Were you aware that he was arrested and convicted for any of those charges?

Chief Bolaños: No, sir.

Altfield: Were you aware that Rolando Bolanos, Jr., was a witness in a federal case involving an auto theft ring that exported automobiles out of the country?

Chief Bolaños: No, sir.

...

Altfield: Did you have any contact with a Det. R. Suess with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department?

Chief Bolaños: Yes, but not for auto theft.

Altfield: What did you speak to him about?

Chief Bolaños: One night when I was with my wife at home ... we received a call from Fort Lauderdale to the effect that they had picked up Rolando with some other kids and that they were suspected of attempting to trespass into some location. I gave the phone to my wife and said, 'You deal with this.' I got up and I went to work.... [At work] my wife called me and said, 'They need to talk to you.' And I came home and they said that he was involved with a group of individuals and I do not recall them talking to me about auto theft.... As far as I know he's never been arrested. I don't even know if he's testified or provided testimony."

Altfield then asked the chief whether he knew that Daniel had mentioned Rollie's car-theft arrest on a Hialeah Gardens Police Department application form. The chief explained it away.

Chief Bolaños: [Daniel] told me that he thought that Rollie had been arrested in 1992. And I asked him: 'Who did you get that from?' And he said, 'Don't you remember a time when he took your car,' which is my Firebird, 'and you waited for him? And when he came into the house, you told him that was auto theft and that he could be charged with that.' And I said, 'Son, he wasn't arrested for that.'

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