The photograph would be cute if it weren't outrageous. It shows two Miami Beach cops, eyes closed, heads back, and sound asleep, in a police cruiser. An anonymous photographer says he took the snapshot of the on-duty officers, Grettel Monge and Pedro Gonzalez, napping together around 4:30 a.m. in the past few weeks not far from the beach, right around Second Street.
Monge and Gonzalez were supposed to be keeping the area safe for residents and tourists.
That tipster, who identified himself only as "Joe Citizen," sent the photo, along with several others, to New Times this morning. We provided them to Miami Beach PD, which opened an internal affairs investigation.
"Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention," MBPD spokesperson Ernesto Rodriguez said via email. "These allegations are taken very seriously. As such, the Chief has instructed Internal Affairs to investigate."
New Times has requested both officers' records.
The tipster said via email that he regularly catches MBPD cops taking power naps in uniform "on the sand" south of Fifth Street. He also said an empty parking lot on Fifth Street at Euclid Avenue provides the cops a place to park and doze.
"This is a nightly occurrence on the Beach," the photographer said. He added via email: "I took these a couple weeks ago, and I was not going to do anything about it, but the police cars are always on the beach late at night, and I see them there for hours."
The photos come as Beach PD is attempting to tamp down unruly spring breakers, who have been videotaped twerking on a police ATV, twerking in the middle of traffic, and twerking quite literally atop a car speeding on a causeway. Spring break crowds have also stampeded multiple times this year after someone brandished a snake and/or firearm (you read that correctly) on Ocean Drive. And spring breakers have been videotaped beating the daylights out of an Uber driver.
Spring break was supposed to ratchet down in intensity in 2017: After last year's festivities culminated in a murder, the Miami Beach City Commission banned coolers, speakers, tents, and alcohol on the beaches for all of March. MBPD has also installed controversial license-plate-tracking technology across the city in an attempt to hunt down fleeing criminals.
In a memo issued earlier this week, City Manager Jimmy Morales endorsed the department's use of the technology. He said the plate readers have led to multiple arrests and helped detectives track down people who might have been witnesses to crimes. But groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union have worried the installation of plate readers could lead to a permanent surveillance state.
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Photos of sleeping cops, however, cut the legs out from under the department's PR push. In most cities, streets are empty at 4:30 a.m., but in Miami Beach, where clubs and bars stay open until 5 a.m., the early-morning hours are prime time for fights, robberies, and world-class debauchery.
As of last week, more than 35 people had been arrested in South Beach during spring break. That number has almost certainly grown.
In some jurisdictions, sleeping on the job is a fireable offense: In 2007, Key Biscayne Police Officer Carlos Gutierrez was fired after three separate complaints about him sleeping on the job.
Frighteningly, this also is far from the first time Beach cops have been caught taking a snooze: In 2010, a New Times investigation found that cops working huge amounts of overtime were falling asleep in their patrol cars — and making "life-threatening" mistakes.