Under Suspicion

Despite a history of corruption in its north district substation, the Miami Police Department won't get tough with its own cops

For some officers the department's failure to resolve damaging allegations can leave a cloud over them for years. Lt. Kevin McKinnon, a 22-year veteran of the force, was a sergeant in both the north district and Overtown's central district in the Eighties. Two officers who worked patrol in Overtown recall arresting drug suspects in the Eighties and hearing about McKinnon running the streets, often referred to by his street name "Curly Perm" (for the way he styled his hair). The two officers have since been promoted and now occupy key investigative positions within the department. As one of them recalls, "You'd be arresting somebody and they'd say, “So it's okay to arrest us, but not Sgt. Curly Perm? Why don't you do something about him?' It happened all the time. It got to the point where it was embarrassing."

Although McKinnon acknowledges the nickname -- "I've been called that before," he says -- he denies any involvement in drugs or illegal activity.

Miami Police Chief Raul Martinez believes problems in the north district are restricted to a few bad cops
Steve Satterwhite
Miami Police Chief Raul Martinez believes problems in the north district are restricted to a few bad cops

The 45-year-old McKinnon has a long and checkered history with the department. He joined the force in 1979, after attending Texas Christian College for one and a half years. According to personnel reports, supervisors saw potential in the rookie's energy. But he also had a wild side, and early in his career marital problems would put him in conflict with fellow cops. On July 24, 1982, his then-wife, Linda McKinnon, called Metro-Dade police "in reference to a domestic dispute," according to a police report of the incident. Two officers who approached the house on NW 154th Street reported that McKinnon greeted them outside by yelling "Fuck you! Get out of here!" and wouldn't let them in the house. When they knocked on the door he told them to "quit playing policeman and leave." He also told them he had a gun in his hand.

Eventually more cops arrived and they were able to push the door open. They took a .38-caliber pistol from McKinnon's ankle holster. Linda McKinnon, who was described as having a swollen lip, then stepped forward and told the officers her husband had beaten her and wouldn't let her leave. But she didn't want to press charges. The officers escorted her out.

A month later, on August 16, Linda McKinnon called the internal security office (now called internal affairs), crying hysterically and claiming that her husband had beaten her again. Once more she declined to press charges.

In the end McKinnon received a reprimand and suspension. Today, with laws requiring officers to make an arrest if they witness evidence of injury in a domestic dispute, it's more likely McKinnon would have been taken into custody, possibly ending his law-enforcement career.

By the mid- to late-Eighties, McKinnon had divorced and remarried. In 1988 he was known to fellow officers largely because of his fancy style. He drove a new Maserati "bi-turbo" high-performance sports car, which one auto dealer estimates would have cost between $32,000 and $40,000 then. According to fellow police officers, McKinnon also wore a Rolex watch and took annual trips to Europe. That year he earned around $38,000, not including overtime and off-duty jobs, which in some cases can nearly double an officer's salary. "I work. If I want to buy a car, as long as I can afford it, I can buy whatever I want," McKinnon says today, while declining to comment on his travels or the Rolex. (A 1999 Mercedes-Benz CLK 320 two-door coupe is currently registered in his name.)

Sometime in 1988 an undercover unit received a phone call from an anonymous source. According to five officers with direct knowledge of the events that day, the caller said that Sgt. Kevin McKinnon, identified by rank and name, was at a Liberty City address with a pile of cocaine. Police rushed to the scene, an abandoned duplex building on Tenth Avenue near NW 70th Street in Model City. One of the patrol cars driving to the address actually passed McKinnon in the neighborhood. Everyone at the scene concurs that on a table inside one of the apartments in the duplex was between half a kilo and a kilo of powder cocaine, a bag of crack-cocaine rocks, and little baggies for packaging them. As cops swarmed the building, neighbors standing nearby were asked if they knew to whom the apartment belonged. According to three of the police sources, a young boy piped up before the adults with him could silence him. "He said, “Yeah, that's my uncle, Kevin McKinnon's,'" recalls one of the officers, who is still on the force.

Internal-affairs officers were also at the duplex, as were crime-scene technicians who dusted the drugs for fingerprints. No charges were ever filed in connection with the incident and no records or other evidence linked McKinnon to the property.

In a brief telephone interview, McKinnon confirms that he was implicated in the incident but that he was cleared. He denies any involvement with the duplex or the drugs, and points out that investigators found no evidence he was ever inside the room where the drugs were discovered. "I was found to be not guilty of those accusations," he says. "I know I didn't do it. What more can I do? I'm an honorable person; I don't go that route." Then he adds: "You have to be careful what you write. There are a lot of cockroaches out there looking to ruin people's reputations and besmirch my name."

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