As you might expect, the Super Bowl brought a wide cast of characters to town. Some were looking to score tickets, get drunk or get lucky. Some are looking for redemption.
In town to work a private security detail at Dolphin Stadium over the weekend, Ed Figueroa spent a weekday talking with old colleagues at the Miami Police Department. He was hoping to get a job there once again and finally move past the stigma he's lived with for the past ten years.
Over a cafe au lait at a downtown coffee shop, Figueroa, a burly, bearded 45-year-old with a jet black ponytail, talked about trying to pick up the pieces of his life since being charged with corruption as a city police officer. "Not all cops accused of corruption have been bad ones."
In 1995, Figueroa was fired for allegedly lying to superiors and listening in to restricted police radio channels, among other things. After challenging the charges, Figueroa was cleared in 1998 and reinstated. A few months later, he resigned, humiliated by his new desk post and ready to move on.
Figueroa pinned his hopes on a federal suit against the department, but a judge threw the case out after Figueroa's attorney twice failed to show up to court.
So, for the last eight years, Figueroa has, among other things, worked as a truck driver, landscaper and Wal-Mart detective of sorts in North Carolina. A three-year stint with a local sheriff's office up there ended when the assistant chief fired Figueroa, calling him "unmanageable." Figueroa doesn't deny that he can be bullheaded and idealistic, but he insists the real reason for the firing was his threat to call out the assistant chief for allegedly taking male prisoners out of county lock up to have sex with them. Shortly after Figueroa's firing, the assistant chief was sentenced to 12 years in prison for exactly that, Figueroa said.
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Either way, Figueroa has been unable to outrun his past in Miami. Most police jobs are out of the question, he said, because of the taint of the charges levied against him in Miami. "(Prospective employers) get on Google, and what's the first thing that comes up?"
From North Carolina, Figueroa has watched with frustration as former colleagues climbed the command ladder in Miami. He desperately wants another chance. By Thursday, however, he hadn't heard back from anyone at Miami PD. He was feeling dejected.
"I believe in moving forward, but when you try to live in the present and your past haunts you...."