Cop Out

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

Scarcely a month after the unarrest, Vivian Monroe presented associate superintendent Nelson Perez with a memorandum requesting a "career redirection." "She came to me and expressed an interest in basically going to investigations," he states. "That's where she came from, that's always been her true interest." In cooperation with the chief herself, and with other administrators, Perez quickly sketched out Monroe's exit strategy from the chief's post.

Moffett asserts a combination of pressure from below (the FOP) and above (higher-ranking administrators) precipitated Monroe's move. Nelson Perez and Henry Fraind refute that assessment. Both say the change was totally Monroe's idea, and that neither their displeasure with her nor union bellyaching, had anything to do with it.

The Teamsters' Gomez says he's not surprised the FOP is trying to take credit for Monroe moving aside. "Everybody over there has an agenda, and none of them has labor experience," he states. A barrel-chested cop with a round face and round, gold-rimmed glasses, Gomez reaches for his pager as he sits in his patrol car at the front entrance of Ruben Dario Middle School in West Miami-Dade. His position as chief steward of the Teamsters has made him something of a lightning rod for the ire of disgruntled officers; he turns on the light of his beeper's LCD display. "43-43-43-43-43" it reads. "That means 'Fuck you,'" he explains.

Photos by Steve Satterwhite
Henry Fraind describes Vivian Monroe's performance in the top job as "adequate"
Henry Fraind describes Vivian Monroe's performance in the top job as "adequate"

He stresses that his union, which replaced the Police Benevolent Association (PBA) in 1995, has not exactly gone to the mattresses to defend Monroe. He points out her promotion from assistant chief to the top job in 1997 followed closely on the heels of the first school board election decided by single-member districts, and was a measure of the power of Solomon Stinson, the newly elected board member and long-time district administrator. "She was mostly a paper-pusher," Gomez laments. "She has the minimum qualifications to be chief, but she'd never been out on the road, doing day-to-day police work."

Even so he feels his union was able to negotiate two pretty good contracts with Monroe, instituting a seniority program for the first time, and adding a 27-percent pay increase over five years. He says the Teamsters didn't see the need to mount a propaganda campaign for her removal, despite her dubious record. Gomez admits this stance has cost the Teamsters dearly. The FOP has petitioned the state for a union election, which could take place as soon as the first week in April. Moffett predicts victory for the FOP. By his reckoning, the Teamsters have 60 dues-paying members; the FOP has 78.

Capt. Stephana Clark sits in her subdivided office, clad in a light-brown pantsuit, glasses pushed down on her nose. She is one of six police officers assigned to the special investigations unit now headed by Vivian Monroe. Clark regards the reporter who has identified himself as a staff writer for New Times.

"Oh," she says, peering stonily over her spectacles, and likely remembering that New Times three years ago described the internal affairs investigation into her alleged falsification of an accident report. The reporter asks if Chief Monroe is in.

"No," she says.

Does she know if the chief would be back today?

"No," she said. "Not here."

Does she know how the chief could be reached?

"Call her, leave a message."

Though Clark appears well-settled in her office, the rest of the fourth-floor wing of Lindsey Hopkins Technical Education Center, a vocational school at 750 NW Twentieth St., is eerily barren. In the offices adjacent to hers on the south side of the hallway, only every third cubicle appears occupied. The rooms on the north side of the hallway are stacked head-high with a thicket of school desks.

In April 1999 Monroe ordered all of her department's detectives (eighteen investigators, including a captain and a lieutenant) out of their individual region offices, and centralized them at Lindsey Hopkins. When Monroe negotiated her new position as head of the "special investigations unit" in February 2000, she and her six hand-picked subordinates moved to the Lindsey Hopkins offices, and the detectives were sent back to the regional offices. This relocation left the old investigators feeling, well, not very special.

Sergeant Moffett, a fast talker with a sardonic smile, was one of the detectives stationed at Lindsey Hopkins when the whole unit was booted. He also is the first vice president of the FOP. He says that, if the unarrest of Ray Davis caused a parade of defections from the Teamsters to the FOP, the scattering of the investigative unit created a stampede.

Happy as he is that Monroe will no longer be chief, Moffett is incensed she's remaining on the payroll, and that she has displaced him and his colleagues from Lindsey Hopkins. "How can this person be making $89,000 a year to supervise six people?" he queries. "And now she has this X-Files squad. What constitutes a 'special investigation'?" (Gomez of the Teamsters also is skeptical of the new unit, though he asserts some of Monroe's handpicked officers are good cops who want the squad to be a "gung-ho" investigative team.)

"First of all, she needed to go somewhere," Nelson Perez offers. He points out the main police office is too small to accommodate a new unit. But who ordered the detectives out and the special investigative unit in? Vivian Monroe. "She's still the acting chief, and that was her decision," Perez says.

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