Former Miami Police Officer Gets 15 Years for Running Cocaine-Trafficking Ring

Miami Police Officers Schonton Harris, Kelvin Harris, and James Archibald
Miami Police Officers Schonton Harris, Kelvin Harris, and James Archibald City of Miami Police Department
click to enlarge Miami Police Officers Schonton Harris, Kelvin Harris, and James Archibald - CITY OF MIAMI POLICE DEPARTMENT
Miami Police Officers Schonton Harris, Kelvin Harris, and James Archibald
City of Miami Police Department
In Florida, it's rare to see a police officer serve any time, let alone decades, in prison for breaking the law. But today, a federal judge threw the book at Schonton Harris, sentencing the former Miami Police officer to more than 15 years in prison after she pleaded guilty to cocaine-trafficking charges this past January. Prosecutors say Harris and two other cops sold a Miami Police uniform to an undercover agent posing as a drug trafficker, used a gun while ferrying drugs, and ultimately tried to sell tens of kilograms of cocaine as well as Percocet pills.

"Individuals who use the badge for their own personal gain have no place in law enforcement," George L. Piro, special agent in charge of the FBI in Miami, said today in a news release. "We commend the City of Miami Police Department for their close cooperation and commitment throughout this investigation."

Drug corruption cases have dogged MPD for decades. Among the most famous, the Miami River Cops scandal in the '80s led to the arrest, termination, or suspension of roughly 100 city officers after numerous cops stole drugs and money from dealers and at one point even hired a hit man to murder someone. More recently, MPD Officer Adrian Santos was busted last year for allegedly snorting cocaine on-camera inside the nightclub E11even while topless women danced nearby.

In December, federal prosecutors in Miami unsealed a massive case against Harris and two other cops — James Archibald and Kelvin Harris. (It's unclear from reports if Schonton Harris and Kelvin Harris are related.) The feds say the trio protected drug dealers and received money in exchange.

The FBI conducted extensive undercover surveillance before filing the charges. Per the feds, the three officers allegedly collected more than $30,000 from their racket during the six-month FBI sting. Schonton Harris was a 20-year veteran who patrolled Liberty City. Kelvin Harris, a 26-year vet, ran the front desk at the North District police station. And Archibald had been a neighborhood resource officer in Liberty City for two years.

The FBI also recorded Schonton Harris describing her actions to drug dealers. According to a Miami Herald story from earlier this year, Harris was caught saying she nearly shot someone who got too close to the dealers she was protecting.

"I take the damn seat belt off and I was sitting with my gun in my lap, and when the motherf***er started walking, I pulled that shit up," she reportedly said. "I let the window down a little bit, and I set [the gun] just like this. I was gonna pop that motherf***er."

In the most jaw-dropping part of the legal complaint, the FBI says Schonton Harris agreed to sell a Miami Police uniform to an undercover federal agent. The agent was posing as a sicario — a hit man for a drug cartel — and said he would pay $1,500 for a real MPD uniform and badge.

At one point, prosecutors say, Harris drove to a Miami-area marina and picked up two coolers she believed contained 15 kilos of cocaine. After dropping the coolers off at a hotel, she was paid $17,000.

"The sentence announced today is a victory for all law enforcement officers who protect and serve our community with pride, honor, and dignity,” U.S. Attorney Ariana Fajardo Orshan said. “We will not allow those who abuse their positions of trust to tarnish the reputation of the City of Miami Police Department and those dedicated officers who, every day, serve the City of Miami residents."
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.