Vote For Miami's Worst Cop of 2012
It's pretty hard to follow in the large boot steps of John Timoney, the one-time Miami police chief. In fact, ever since Miami New Times crowned Timoney "America's Worst Cop" in 2007, it's taken us five years to find suitable successors to the title.
But the quintet of contenders in Miami this year up have certainly done a heck of a job tarnishing the badge.
There are so many bad police chiefs, we can't decide who deserves the top honor. So readers, please help us by voting for your pick for Miami's Worst Cop in 2012. Make your picks in the comments section or in the comments section on our Facebook page. We'll announce the winner before the New Year:
- John Timoney, America's Worst Cop
Thomas Hunker: Bal Harbour
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Current status: suspended with pay
Why he is the worst: Under a money laundering operation Hunker started shortly after hired him three years ago, Bal Harbour police conducted 227 money pickups and laundered $56.2 million across the country, but made no arrests related to the criminal probes, according to a recent scathing U.S. Justice Department of Justice audit. Hunker claimed his task force was responsible for 84 arrests and $49.7 million in seized cash that were actually done by other law enforcement agencies. He could not provide the feds with a single example of his task force presenting a case for prosecution.
Meanwhile according to the Justice Department, Bal Harbour officers routinely inflated the hours worked on each operation, citing 2,000 hours in some cases and 4,000 hours on others. Hunker also went on stupendously ridiculous shopping sprees that included $3,200 for a Miami-Dade police chiefs golf outing at Miami Shores Country Club; $1,000 for two nights' stay at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in San Juan, Puerto Rico; and thousands more in sumptuous meals at Carpaccio Restaurant in the Bal Harbour Shoppes.
Not even Miami rapper Rick Ross gets flossy like Hunker.
Manuel Orosa: Miami
Current status: On duty
Why he is the worst: When he was a Miami police sergeant in 1988, Orosa supervised a six-cop squad who brutally beat a drug dealer named Leonardo Mercado to death. A subsequent internal affairs investigation found that Orosa failed preserve evidence in the case and he was suspended with pay in 1989. Yet in 2011 he was tapped to replace then-embattled police chief Miguel Exposito.
Orosa hasn't fared any better. Embarrassed by a Sun Sentinel investigative series on cops who drove off duty at excessive speeds, Orosa finally cracked down on traffic law breaking officers on his police force. The Sun Sentinel stories, published in February, used SunPass toll records to determine how fast cops were driving and found almost 800 hit speeds above 90 mph in a 13-month period. Miami officers were among the worst speeders, driving up to 55 mph over the speed limit outside city limits.
Meanwhile, a string of dirty cops have been busted by federal law enforcement authorities since Orosa became chief. The first to go down was Roberto Asanza, an undercover narcotics detective who pled guilty earlier this year to misdemeanor drug charges and received one year of probation after he was busted in June 2011. A year earlier, FBI agents found 10 bags of cocaine and two bags of marijuana Asanza had stolen from an Allapattah drug dealer.
Asanza agreed to cooperate against his supervisor, Sgt. Raul Iglesias, an 18-year veteran who was indicted in July for planting cocaine on suspect, stole drugs and money from dealers, and lied to federal investigators. The Miami Police Department, with roughly 1,100 sworn officers, has seen numerous officers suspended and fired in recent years because of their involvement in criminal activity, from ripping off drugs and money from dealers to fencing contraband such as stolen Bluetooth headsets.
Earlier this month, the Miami Herald reported -- based on information first broken by blogger Al Crespo -- that at least a half-dozen Miami police officers have been targeted by the FBI for their alleged roles in providing protection for a Liberty City sports gambling operation that was uncovered more than a year ago, Arrests of at least six -- and possibly more -- Miami officers are expected early next year, according to authorities.
Since Orosa took over the top job, the Miami Police department hasn't seen so many scandals since the infamous River cops case of the 1980s.
Orlando Martinez de Castro: South Miami
Current status: on duty
Why he is the worst: In October, the Miami-Dade ethics commission charged Martinez de Castro with four violations of unethical conduct because he steered city business to his wife's auto tag agency. He allegedly violated South Miami's prohibition on transacting business with a family relative and the county's prohibition on exploitation of official position.
According to South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard, the chief also misspent forfeiture funds. In 2011, the city issued about $20,000 in payments to Lou's Police Distributors for handguns, rifles, ammunition, repair services, binoculars, reserve officer's uniforms and flashlights. Other expenses included about $17,000 to Enterprise Rent-A-Car for leasing undercover vehicles, and about $50,000 in technological upgrades, software, computers and supplies to Tigerdirect, Dell, International Data Consulting, USA Software, and Bar Codes Unlimited.
In August, he also turned over a homeless illegal Canadian immigrant named Richard Papove to ICE officials. Papove performed odd jobs for the chief's enemies on the city commission.
That's just an abuse of power.
Ricky Gomez: Doral
Current status: Fired on Dec. 11
Why he is the worst: Gomez may have escaped criminal prosecution to begin 2012, but he couldn't escape the ax before the end of the year. Doral interim city manager Merrett Stierheim terminated Gomez after reviewing a Florida Department of Law Enforcement report detailing an investigation into Gomez and possible bid-rigging and misuse of funds that began in April 2011.
Agents for FDLE were prepared to arrest Gomez, but prosecutors declined to press charges and closed the case this past January. The investigation found that Gomez abused his official position by having a city vendor foot the bill for his swearing-in ceremony at the Doral Golf Resort and Spa and helped another vendor win a contract to provide furniture for his new office.
Stierheim told CBS4 he got rid of Gomez because he was dismayed by an intimidating and insular culture the chief created when reviewing the files. He also raised concerns over the way Gomez would hire and fire employees and the morale in the department.
Gomez has repeatedly denied any wrong doing and alleged that the the investigation was initiated by former city council members and Stierheim's predecessor based on bogus allegations. Still, when he's comparing his dismissal to being treated like one of the jihadists responsible for the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil, Gomez doesn't deserve any sympathy.
The day after he was fired, Gomez proclaimed at a press conference: "I felt like I was a member of al-Qaida being taken off to Gitmo, it was really ridiculous."
No, Ricky. You're ridiculous.
Cheryl Cason: Opa-Locka
Current status: On duty
Why she is the worst: Long before she was promoted to police chief in 2008, Cason was disciplined 22 times in an eight-year period between 1984 (the year she was hired) and 1991, when she tested positive for cocaine in two separate tests.
The department rehired her in 1999 after reaching a settlement with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement that allowed her to keep her police certification. Cason has denied taking illegal drugs, asserting the tests were tainted.
In 2011, then-Opa-Locka city manager Clarence Patterson suspended her after she failed to report an accident in her city vehicle, allegedly breaking a mirror as she backed out of her driveway. She failed to call an accident investigator as required by a policy she instituted, according to an Miami Herald investigative report in June.
The same story found that under Cason's tenure, there were 41 internal affairs investigations against Opa-Locka's 58-member force in 2011. Ten police officers being fired or forced to resign after the probes found that some had been discharged from other departments for wrongdoing, had criminal records or lied on their job applications.
In October, one of her former captains Arthur Balom pled guilty to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, Ecstasy and Oxycodone. According to the federal indictment, Balom aided and abetted Opa-Locka's Back Blue Gang by re-routing cops away from the gang would do business. Balom would also tell the gang about police activity in the area and assist members when they came into contact with law enforcement.
No wonder Opa-Locka's crime rate remains among the highest in Florida for cities of its size.
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