Ultra Music Festival Hires Miami Beach Police Chief As Its New Security Director
Ultra is hoping hiring Miami Beach police chief Ray Martinez fixes its security problems.
Photo by George Martinez
Ultra Music Festival has announced that its new security director will be none other than current Miami Beach police chief Ray Martinez.
The move makes sense. Martinez already announced that he's stepping down at the end of this month. Meanwhile, Ultra is seeking to assuage the City of Miami after a security disaster in which gatecrashers trampled a private guard.
But that doesn't mean the marriage is made in heaven. Under Martinez, Miami Beach police fatally Tasered a teenage graffiti artist, roughed up a model, and beat-up a good samaritan for coming to her aid. How will he handle Ultra?
On March 28, a crowd of young men jumped on of Ultra's fences, trampling 28-year-old security guard Erica Mack in the process. She is still recovering from a broken leg and brain trauma.
The incident -- first reported by New Times -- has spurred mayor Tomás Regalado and commissioner Marc Sarnoff to call for Ultra to be shut down or moved outside Miami.
By hiring Martinez, Ultra appears to be trying to stem the flood of security related questions surrounding the festival.
"Chief Martinez has built a record of distinguished service in law enforcement and we are honored to have his insight and leadership as part of the Ultra team," said Russell Faibisch, one of Ultra's founders, in a press release.
"The safety of our event, fans, crew and personnel has always been our number one concern," he continued. "For over 14 years we have worked hand-in-hand with the Bayfront Park Management Trust, City of Miami law enforcement and the downtown business community to provide a safe environment for our local and visiting fans, and our dedicated crew members who help to make Ultra a success. Under Chief Martinez's leadership our commitment will only be strengthened as we strive to provide the highest quality event at all levels."
Martinez -- a former marine and purple heart recipient -- is widely credited with calming a department that was dangerously out of control. In the months before he took over, Miami Beach cops nearly killed half a dozen innocent people.
During Memorial Day Weekend 2011, MBPD fired 116 bullets to stop drunk driver Raymond Herisse. But stray bullets also caught three bystanders, spawning litigation against the city.
A few months later, Miami Beach cop Derick Kuilan and his partner partied at The Clevelander while on duty. Kuilan then drunkenly drove his ATV around the beach with a bachelorette on the back. The joyride only ended when Kuilan hit a couple laying in the sand -- again nearly killing them and prompting a lawsuit.
"It is mind-boggling that they felt comfortable enough to do something like that," said then-chief Carlos Noriega. "It was reckless."
Compared to Noriega, Martinez's tenure as chief was calm. Cops haven't fired a bullet since he took over, he boasted when announcing his retirement last month.
But two scandals show his hiring as Ultra security director isn't exactly straightforward. In fact, they suggest that the type of crackdown Martinez led in Miami Beach may backfire in downtown Miami clogged with
200,000 as many as 60,000 young concertgoers at a time.
On June 26 of last year, Andrew Mossberg spotted what he thought was a robbery in progress. When the 50-year-old saw someone strike a model in the face and rifle through her purse, Mossberg tried to intervene.
But the suspect turned out to be MBPD cop Philippe Archer. And instead of thanking the good samaritan, the detective allegedly kicked him in the head. (Archer, incidentally, was one of the cops to fire his weapon during the Memorial Day Weekend shooting.)
Five weeks later, MBPD was again accused of abuse of force. On August 6, more than half a dozen Miami Beach cops chased 18-year-old Israel "Reefa" Hernandez for seven minutes for spray painting an abandoned McDonald's. When they caught him, they fatally Tased him, then allegedly high-fived over the dying teen.
Reefa's family has sued the city over the incident, which was first reported by New Times.
Also under Martinez: DUI arrests are down, iPhone thefts are up, and the Justin Bieber saga has turned South Beach into a sea of paparazzi.
Not exactly auspicious omens for Ultra.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Miami New Times' biggest stories.