Biscayne Park Top Cop Once Suspended for Using Squad Car to Party in South Beach

Let's play trivia. Today's topic: laughably inept local governments. Can you name the Miami-Dade village that mysteriously suspended its top three cops March 27?

No, not Sweetwater. That was then-mayor Manny Maroño, who was busted for taking bribes. No, not Homestead. There, it was Mayor Steve Bateman arrested for unlawful compensation. The correct answer is Biscayne Park. But don't worry. Nobody had heard of the V-shaped village, ensconced twixt North Miami and Miami Shores like a necklace between neighborhood cleavage, until the bizarre batch of suspensions back in March. Police Chief Ray Atesiano promptly resigned. Village officials called in a private security company to investigate. And Biscayne Park went on lock-down. The only announcement was that acting corporal Thomas "Tommy" Harrison would take control of the police department for the time being.

But if Biscayne Park was looking for a strong, moral leader, Harrison wasn't it. Internal affairs records from Harrison's previous employer, Miami-Dade Schools Police Department, paint him as a party boy who couldn't lead much more than a keg stand.

On April 22, 2009, an anonymous citizen called the schools police to report that one of its squad cars was illegally parked on South Beach. "Multiple individuals exited the vehicle dressed in beach attire and entered the beach with a cooler," according to the complaint.

Three internal affairs officers headed to SoBe to investigate. The cruiser was Harrison's, and the IA officers soon spotted the 32-year-old school cop basking on the beach in nothing but flower-print board shorts and flip-flops. At his side was a blond, beautiful 21-year-old named Rebecca Carl. Also living la vida loca were Juan Miguel Carmenate, 31, and Maximiliano Passamonte, 33.

Eventually, Harrison and Carl hopped back into his cruiser and picked up her roommate, a buxom blonde named Meghan Loy. Then the three of them returned to the beach. Hiding under the Fourth Street lifeguard tower, the IA officers filmed the party of five swigging Corona.

When the IA men confronted their fellow cop, they found a fully loaded Glock in his glove compartment. The problem: It wasn't his. The gun belonged to Carmenate's dad, and Carmenate didn't have a concealed weapons permit. (No charges were filed.)

Harrison owned up to his mistake. He was stripped of his squad car and suspended for a month. He quit four months later, just before the investigators found him guilty of conduct unbecoming an officer and inappropriate use of a county vehicle.

Biscayne Park "was aware of Officer Harrison's previous employment and concerns raised by his previous employer when he was hired," City Manager Heidi Shafran says. "Officer Harrison willingly assisted the village at a time of great need."

That heroic assistance is now over, however. Biscayne Park appointed an interim chief two weeks later.

And in a strange coda to Harrison's brief stint in charge of Biscayne Park Police, he has now been accused of involvement in a bizarre loan scheme partially blamed for the turmoil in the department.

According to the Miami Herald, Harrison allegedly loaned Atesiano $2,000 in return for taxpayer-funded overtime and off-duty work.

Atesiano said a misspelled contract listing him as the "taker" and Harrison as the "giver" was a "joke."

"It was a joke. We were making fun of Tommy," the former chief said. "You think I'd borrow money and make up a contract like that? These allegations are totally nonsense."

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.