Miami Commissioner Wants to Ban Cops From Off-Duty Work at Places That Serve Booze

City of Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina
City of Miami Police
City of Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina
In July 2014, an anonymous tipster called police early one morning to report that a uniformed Miami Beach cop appeared to be drunk outside Mango's Tropical Cafe on Ocean Drive. When officers arrived, they found their own Sgt. Mike Muley so plastered he apparently needed to be transported to Mount Sinai Medical Center. After that incident, then-Chief Dan Oates decreed that, given the ease with which officers could get into trouble, his cops were temporarily prohibited from working off-duty security details at nightclubs.

That move sparked a battle with the city's police union, and now the City of Miami may be gearing up for a similar fight. Commissioner Joe Carollo β€” the former mayor whose critics casually call him "Loco Joe" β€” has proposed banning Miami cops from working off-duty security details at any establishments that hold state liquor licenses, a move that would dramatically cut many officers' secondary lines of income.

Technically speaking, the city already bans cops from working at bars: The Miami Police Department's internal rules state, "Employees are prohibited from working bars. Employees will only be permitted to work establishments which are primarily restaurants, as defined by the City of Miami Code, and which have a valid Certificate of Use for restaurant, issued by the City of Miami." Carollo's proposal would seemingly expand that ban to any establishment holding a state "4COP" or "4COP SFX/SRS" liquor license, which would essentially extend the ban to almost any restaurant or nightclub in Miami.

Carollo's proposal, which will be read at the city's September 11 commission meeting, alleges officers are likelier to engage in misconduct or actions unbecoming of the city when they're working off-duty security details where alcohol is flowing.

"We are asking for MPD Order 12, Chapter 1.10, 'Employees are prohibited from working bars...' to be enforced," Carollo wrote in an email to New Times last night. "This is citywide."

According to a brief review of Miami Civilian Investigative Panel complaint files, MPD officers working off-duty security details since 2017 have been accused of verbally harassing citizens, wrongfully arresting people, working on- and off-duty shifts at the same time, and even breaking one woman's wrist. Critics within the city government have complained for years that off-duty details have ballooned out of control and can create a conflict of interest for cops who are indebted to clubs or bars that regularly cut them paychecks. In 2013, New Times wrote that Miami cops appeared to be cracking down on Wynwood bars as a favor to the competing downtown nightclubs that routinely hire cops to work off-duty security details.

Carollo's proposal places the controversial commissioner (with a history of racist actions and an arrest for striking his wife in the head with a terra cotta container) in a bizarre spot: The move is sure to upset the city's rank-and-file police officers but has already won some praise from Miami's police-reform activists, who typically despise the commissioner, who is himself a former police officer.

Until fairly recently, Carollo was somewhat chummy with the city's police union, to the point it endorsed him when he ran for city commission in 2017. But his litany of bizarre actions in office since then has begun to push many cops away from him. His latest proposal to limit police overtime hours is already infuriating the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) union, and multiple sources within the city speculated to New Times that Carollo's proposal, separate from any of its potential merits, might be related to his ongoing vendetta against the Little Havana real-estate mogul Bill Fuller, who employs off-duty cops at many of his bars. Under Carollo's plan, any establishment in Miami with a liquor license would be forced to hire their own bouncers or security guards from private companies.

Tommy Reyes, the recently elected head of Miami's FOP, said last night he is aware of Carollo's proposal and considers it an affront to the police department.

"Commissioner Carollo's proposed ordinance is nothing but an attack on public safety," Reyes told New Times. "Why would anyone in their right mind care if police officers are being hired by private business owners for security reasons?" Reyes then suggested off-duty cops would somehow be likelier to stop an active shooter if one were to appear in Miami.

"The Fraternal Order of Police's stance on this ordinance is that it is a personal attack on one business owner by Commissioner Carollo by putting his personal vendetta before public safety," Reyes said. The union also recently retweeted an op-ed from Grant Miller, publisher of Miami's Community Newspapers, demanding city residents "recall Joe Carollo" and boot him from office.
But at least one prominent Miami police-reform critic, former Civilian Investigative Panel member Danny Suarez, has already messaged the city to beg other commissioners to support Carollo.

"Imagine having officers freed up to actually do police work?" Suarez emailed the city commission. "Would be great for our residents, don't you think? I always hear the FOP complaining about a shortage of officers β€” just look at a bar: they are working off-duty."