Miami Beach Cop Fired for Racist Emails Sues to Get His Job Back

After he was fired for sending dozens of racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and pornographic messages from his city email account, Miami Beach Police Lt. Alex Carulo apologized to internal investigators.

"It was foolish, poor judgment on my part, and I accept full responsibility," he said. "It is what it is."

But it turns out Carulo's "acceptance of responsibility" only went so far: After losing an arbitration battle in February, the former police captain is now demanding reinstatement and back pay in a lawsuit against the city.

"Carulo has suffered harm and will continue to suffer harm unless and until all declaratory relief is provided," his attorney, Eugene Gibbons, wrote in the ex-officer's petition, which was filed last week in Miami-Dade County court.

Police officials discovered the offensive emails in 2013 while looking into an unrelated complaint against Maj. Angel Vazquez, an officer who retired shortly after being implicated in the email scandal. Following the discovery, internal investigators pored over literally a million messages sent from both city and private email accounts.

The probe ultimately turned up 138 emails containing inappropriate content sent by Carulo, including 12 that were blatantly racist. Among them was a meme of "Black Monopoly" in which every square had an instruction to "go to jail," and a photo of a black child in a KFC bucket with the caption "Rare photo of Obama in his bassinet."
Three-quarters of the offensive emails Carulo sent contained sexual commentary, pornographic images, or nudity. The investigation revealed he also paid a $24.99 monthly fee to a porn site called Dancing Bear using his official police department email.

Police Chief Dan Oates demoted Carulo from captain to lieutenant shortly after Oates took office in the summer of 2014. The chief announced Carulo's firing at a high-profile news conference in May 2015 where he blasted him for sending the emails.

"I can't do enough to say how much we condemn it," Oates told reporters.

Soon after, Carulo appealed his firing and the case went into arbitration, where the former officer argued he was "simply joking" when sending the emails. (He also pulled the I-have-a-black-friend card, saying his wife is black and Hispanic and his daughter is openly gay.) The argument didn't work: In February, an arbiter sided with the city, calling Carulo's actions "shameful and disgraceful."

Following the news, Oates sent a celebratory, department-wide email praising the arbiter's decision: "The Carulo matter was a disgrace to this great agency. It embarrassed all of us," the chief said. "Racism will not be tolerated here. It will be repudiated."

Whether Carulo will get his job back basically depends upon how a judge does math. In his new petition, the ex-lieutenant argues that Florida's Law Enforcement Bill of Rights says officers can't be disciplined if an agency drags its feet longer than 180 days. That means the legality of Carulo's firing now comes down to exactly when the clock started and stopped as investigators looked into the offensive emails.

The city has not yet officially responded in court. Miami Beach spokeswoman Melissa Berthier declined to comment, citing the city's standard policy when it comes to pending litigation.