Miami Beach Police Union President: Banning Cops From Nightclub Work a "PR Stunt"
Around 4:30 a.m. Monday police were called about an extremely drunk man outside Mango's Tropical Cafe, the famous jungle-themed Ocean Drive club. The drunk turned out to be Sergeant Mike Muley, a uniformed Miami Beach police officer who was working off-duty security. The embarrassing arrest sparked the first real reform from new MBPD Chief Dan Oates, who promptly banned officers from off-duty nightclub work.
But don't expect the change to go over easily. The head of MBPD's union tells Riptide they plan to fight. "This is an overreaction and a PR stunt," Sgt. Alex Bello says.
Bello says the off-duty, uniformed police officers' presence outside the clubs -- a form of off-duty work he estimates has been allowed for at least 25 to 30 years -- is instrumental in deterring incidents. Once the officers are removed next month, he predicts residents will notice more late-night issues, and that on-duty city cops will end up overextended from more calls to nightlife hotspots.
"No doubt," Bello said, "if you have 14 less officers on a Friday, Saturday night, you're going to see it and you're going to feel it."
Of course, there's another reason the union adamantly opposes the change: Officers can make serious cash with the off-duty jobs.
In 2010 a Miami New Times investigation found that more than half of Miami Beach's non-executive officers had earned six figures in the previous year, often from lucrative overtime and off-duty assignments. The Miami Herald reported this week that clubs like Mango's, Mansion, and Story pay the officers $45 an hour, $10 of which goes to the city.
But Bello said he estimates there are only 30 or so Miami Beach officers, out of a force of nearly 300 patrol officers, who typically work the off-duty nightclub shifts, and that the assignments weren't all that lucrative for the officers. Oates' decision to stop the assignments, he said, amounted to grandstanding.
"He's a new chief," Bello says. "He's coming in and he wants to show that he's got control."
The move also contradicts Oates' initial promises that he was going to first seek to thoroughly understand his new city and department before implementing major changes, the union chief complains.
"He's gone back on his word," Bello said. "Everything he's told the rank and file has basically not been [consistent with] his actions."
But Oates, who joined MBPD from Aurora, Colorado, has said Muley's case leaves him little choice but to change the policy.
Muley was transported to Mount Sinai Medical Center for treatment and alcohol testing, WSVN reported, and on Monday Oates suspended the officer--who had previously been disciplined as part of the fallout from the infamous 2011 ATV incident--and announced an investigation.
"I am convinced that we need more safeguards and tighter rules before we can consider allowing this kind of work to resume," the chief said in a prepared statement.
Oates, who was brought in to clean up a Miami Beach force beleaguered by a rash of officer scandals, started as the department's chief in early June after serving as police chief of Aurora, Colorado for nine years, including during the city's 2012 theatre massacre. In Colorado Oates cemented a reputation as an effective, no-nonsense leader, but his tenure was also mired by controversy, New Times reported earlier this month.
See also: Dan Oates Is the New Sheriff in Town
To Bello, Oates' decision to stop the off-duty work shows the new chief still has a long way to go before he understands the dynamics of policing his new city.
"It's much different to patrol a city that shuts down at 10 o'clock at night than a city that stays open 24-seven," the union leader said. "You can't tell me that in the short period of time that he's been here that he has a grasp of what's going on. It's impossible."
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