Cop Out

Outgoing school police chief Vivian Monroe has misused and abused her power for years. So why will she remain on the force?

Perhaps the most egregious case of Monroe's abuse of power during her tenure was that of Judith Hunter, a former assistant principal at Hialeah-Miami Lakes Senior High School. In April 1997, according to several witnesses, Hunter came to school apparently drunk, refused her principal's orders to leave the school, and proceeded to kick a school police officer in the groin during a subsequent scuffle. Monroe's response to this situation was to drive to the school personally and whisk Hunter away from her officers on the scene, without arresting the assistant principal. Not only was Hunter never charged with a crime, but the district's OPS, which oversees both criminal and administrative investigations into school employees, did not conduct its own investigation into the matter. Hunter faced no disciplinary measures for her conduct. This incident was first reported by New Times ("Flunk Out," July 1997).

According to several police officers contacted for this story, Vivian Monroe also used her position to protect fellow officers whom she favored.

Monroe promoted Stephana Clark from lieutenant to captain in May 1997. Clark's new assignment was to oversee the department's internal affairs (IA) division. Ironically, that unit was investigating Clark at the time she became its boss.

When Monroe asked for a new gig, Nelson Perez moved quickly to both accommodate her and replace her
When Monroe asked for a new gig, Nelson Perez moved quickly to both accommodate her and replace her
Ofcr. Rafael Gomez of the Teamsters has seen his membership dwindle as the rival union,  the FOP, vilified the chief
Steve Satterwhite
Ofcr. Rafael Gomez of the Teamsters has seen his membership dwindle as the rival union, the FOP, vilified the chief

The school IA investigator assigned to her case, Ofcr. Rick Brincefield, had recommended Clark be charged with two misdemeanors for falsifying an accident report verbally and in writing. Clark had been involved in an accident while driving her unmarked police car in May 1995, and reported the damage was from a hit-and-run driver. A witness stated Clark had in fact conversed with the other driver involved in the accident; Brincefield's investigation on the scene (inspecting Clark's car and fresh skid marks on the road) determined that the accident had not occurred the way Clark had described. Several documents within the IA file had been copied to Assistant Chief Vivian Howell, who, shortly before becoming chief, would marry and take the last name of James Monroe, head of OPS.

Although it appeared ample evidence existed to charge Clark, she got off the hook in October 1995, when Brincefield committed suicide in his rented warehouse bay in Broward County. Hollywood police found him seated inside his marked school police car with a gunshot wound to the side of his head and his department-issued Beretta automatic in his lap. In September 1998 the public-corruption unit at the State Attorney's Office dropped its criminal investigation of Clark. "Due to the death of the lead detective this case cannot be filed," the close-out memo reads.

Another captain, Arnie Weatherington, should have been investigated by internal affairs, but never was. On May 29, 1998, Hialeah officers responded to a complaint of a police officer in a police car "making out with his girlfriend" in Amelia Earhart Park. The Hialeah police determined neither of the individuals were Hialeah cops, and the license plate was from an unmarked school board police unit. The police took some photos, then called the school police, turning the investigation over to them.

On June 19 Sgt. Steven Tarrago wrote a memorandum (initialed by his superior officer, Capt. Stephana Clark) to Asst. Chief Charles Martin, which included the Hialeah police report of an "unauthorized vehicle use." Also attached was a form titled "Allegation of Member/Employee Misconduct Initial Report." This document named Weatherington as the subject of the allegation. Even though Tarrago recommended the incident be referred for "appropriate action," no further action was taken in the case.

School district maintenance worker Ranis Ford is a major thorn in the side of his bosses. The guy has made a habit of filing union grievances, as he did on November 17, 1999. The next day his superiors at the district's North Central Satellite Facility, at 2780 NW 87th St., called him into the building's administrative offices for a disciplinary hearing.

What happened next is the subject of an open personnel investigation within the school district. Documents pertaining to this inquiry obtained by New Times tell a familiar tale: High-ranking school administrator gets in trouble, Vivian Monroe bails him out.

At the aforementioned conference, which began at approximately 9:00 a.m., were Ray D. Davis, director of North Central facility; coordinators Michael Brush and Larry Blanco; and Ford himself. Ford declared his wish to withdraw the union grievance, which was in fact sitting on Davis's desk at the time. Ford picked up the grievance and attempted to exit Davis's office.

The director was having none of it. According to Brush and Blanco, Davis stated that if Ford wanted to withdraw his grievance, he would have to do so in writing. Blanco then stepped out of the office. Brush gives the following account:

"Mr. Ford lunges for said paper and Mr. Davis tried to grab paper out of Ford's hand. As Mr. Ford tried to exit office, Mr. Davis tried to restrain him from stealing this paperwork. The only restraint I saw was Mr. Davis use his right arm around Mr. Ford's shoulder."

With some variation on such points as ferocity and justification, Brush, Davis, and Ford all remember things the same way: Ford tried to leave with the letter, Davis grabbed him and restrained him, Ford hollered repeatedly, "Let me go!" Davis asked that someone call the police, and released Ford after a few seconds. Everyone then waited for the police to arrive.

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