Miami Cop Arrested Domestic Violence Victim, Forced Her to Ride in Car With Abuser

For the umpteenth time in recent years, a Miami-area officer has been cited for mishandling a domestic dispute and endangering a woman who asked police for protection from stalking and harassment.

In January 2016, a victim (whom New Times is not naming because she could not be reached to comment) says she was about to hop in the car and take her child to school when she heard a knock on one of her windows. She peered through: Her ex-boyfriend was standing outside, watching her and her daughter through the glass. The former couple was not on good terms, and she would later tell authorities she was afraid for her safety.

So she called the Miami Police Department — and later said in a complaint to the city's Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP) that MPD officers failed her at nearly every step before arresting her and forcing her to ride in the back of a police car with her abuser. The CIP has since recommended sustaining allegations of "discourtesy" and "improper procedure" against Officer Desiree Gayle, although the CIP is barred from formally punishing officers and can only issue verbal reprimands.

After the woman called the cops, she dropped her daughter off at school and headed home, where she says "three or four" officers were waiting for her. The woman's ex had fled the property while she was gone, but she told police the man was likely still in the area and asked them to drive around to find him.

Instead, the victim claims, Officer Gayle simply laughed and said he was stalking the woman because "he loved her." The victim says she countered and repeated that she and the man were no longer together, that he was trespassing, and that he was "scaring her."

Then the incident escalated: The woman went into her home and watched through a window as her ex returned, walked up to the cops, and spoke with them for a few minutes. He then knocked on the woman's door. When she opened it, she says, the police watched as her ex "began pulling on" to get her outside.

She says that she pushed back to protect herself and that when the police witnessed the struggle, they handcuffed both her and the man and said they were each under arrest for domestic battery. The victim said another officer promised to help her and was aware she'd been given a raw deal, but when the time came to head back to the police station, no one offered any assistance.

Instead, the victim was placed in the back seat of a police cruiser alongside her ex-boyfriend — despite the fact that Miami PD bylaws state that cops are instructed to "determine the primary aggressor" in a domestic dispute and "refrain from making dual arrests" such as this one.

"A young Colombian officer (possibly Officer Vasquez) tried to calm [the victim] by telling her not to worry and he would speak to Officer Gayle and try and help her," the CIP documents read. "The same officer rode in the front passenger seat with Officer Gayle when [the man and woman] were transported together in the backseat of her police car. While in route, [the ex] insulted [the victim] and Officer Gayle laughed and told her again that [her ex] loved her."

Further investigation from the CIP revealed this incident was not the first time Miami PD was forced to deal with this assailant. Records show that he'd been "arrested multiple times for domestic issues" and that a county court had issued a permanent order barring him from contacting his ex. But the victim reported in the past that the man was violating that restraining order by circling her home in a black Cadillac.

The investigation revealed something even more upsetting: Gayle, the very same police officer, had arrested the man for trespassing on that exact property only months before this incident.

"Officer Gayle had knowledge of [the pair's] volatile domestic relationship as shown in her arrest of [the ex] for violating a previous trespass warning she had issued," CIP investigators wrote. "Yet she elected to arrest both parties and transport [them] together despite the ongoing problems between them."
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.

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