John Timoney, America’s Worst Cop

He has spent 138 days on the road in just a few years on the job. Who’s minding the Miami Police Department?

City Commissioner Tomás Regalado, who had supported Timoney's appointment, was also unimpressed: "I had very high hopes, but I have not seen any changes at all."

Timoney didn't simply stand around and take that criticism. In May he announced a Department of Defense-sponsored sojourn to Iraq to help set up a police academy. That trip would be canceled because "the State Department was unable to work out the logistics," according to a spokesman. But in October he left for Philadelphia, the city where he had served four years as police commissioner. He spent $2641 attending the International Association of Chiefs of Police annual meeting for six days while staying at the Marriott in the city's center.

The defining event of Timoney's tenure, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) summit, came to Miami November 20. Police were on guard because of the massive riots that had taken place in Seattle during a 1999 World Trade Organization meeting and demonstrations during the 2000 Republican National Convention in Philadelphia, when Timoney was police commissioner there. Hundreds of people were arrested at both. "Timoney's strategy during the RNC was to arrest as many people as possible, look good in front of the TV cameras, and deal with the Constitution later," commented Kris Hermes, spokesman for a group that helped defend many of the demonstrators.

From FTAA's start, Timoney locked down the city's center. Then he dispatched 2500 officers in riot gear against about 12,000 protesters. The cops used rubber bullets, shields, batons, concussion grenades, and stun guns. The "rough start," Timoney would later explain, was needed because some demonstrators didn't have permits. Sixty people were taken into custody; many were beaten by cops. At one point, Timoney jumped off of his patrol bicycle and yelled at a protester: "Fuck you! You're bad!" Nineteen-year-old Edward Owaki of Connecticut was linking arms with other protesters on Biscayne Boulevard when police barreled into the crowd and pinned him to the ground. He suffered a severe head injury and was hospitalized for a week.

Free speech advocates were horrified. One editorial writer from the St. Petersburg Times said, "The show of force would have made a Latin American dictator blush."

Timoney responded with typical sensitivity. His officers "demonstrated a tremendous amount of restraint," he said.

Then he did what he knows best. He split town. On December 8, less than three weeks after the last protester was dispatched, he took an eight-day trip to London and Belfast for the U.S.-U.K. Police Chiefs Conference. He stayed at the Hastings Culloden Hotel in Belfast, which overlooks the coast and 12 acres of "beautiful, secluded gardens," according to its Website. The hotel's slogan: "Built for a bishop ... Fit for a king."

Amount spent on travel in 2003: $6779

Days away from the city: 21


Fallout from the FTAA riots continued in 2004. Accountants totaled costs for security around $23.9 million. The American Civil Liberties Union received 150 complaints alleging police abuse and filed six lawsuits on behalf of protesters in federal court. (They are all still pending.) The city settled for $180,000 with an independent filmmaker named Carl Kessler after he was injured by a police beanbag fired into his face. And the Miami Civilian Investigative Panel issued a report criticizing cops for profiling and unlawfully searching protesters.

Yet the chief stood by his claim that his handling of the protests was a "success." And he was right — at least if you consider his frequent-flyer account. During at least half of the 26 trips Timoney took after the FTAA summit, he was called up to discuss what became known as "The Miami Model" of crowd control.

In April that year, the chief was embarrassed when a Philadelphia judge dismissed the case against "The Timoney Three," who had been arrested during the 2000 GOP convention after one had allegedly thrown a bicycle at the chief. It was the story he told to local media while chuckling that first day on the job. Called to testify, Timoney couldn't identify his attacker. Worse, a video showed the trio had cooperated with police before taking a beating.

In early June the chief took a three-day trip to Newark to speak at a conference on "domestic security preparedness." It's unclear whether he was paid for that appearance or exactly what he spoke about. He was out of town for virtually all of the latter half of the month as well, traveling to Washington, D.C., for a Webcast on law enforcement use of force, and then jetting with Mayor Diaz to NYC for a Manhattan Institute forum. Next he and Diaz headed to Boston, where they stayed at the Sheraton for the U.S. Conference of Mayors. ("I guess he went with Manny Diaz just as a drinking buddy," Commissioner Regalado would later say.)

In November Timoney headed to Los Angeles for his second International Association of Chiefs of Police annual conference, at the city taxpayers' expense. He stayed at the Wilshire Grand for five nights. Cost: $1224. He didn't bill us for his $171 bar bill — though he submitted it with his travel records. The hotel bar, called Point Moorea, is described on its Website as a "unique upscale high-energy lounge styled after the popular tiki bars of the 1950s and '60s." On this trip, as most others, the chief received a fixed per diem of about $50 to $80 for food expense, depending on the city.

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