In July 2017, Hialeah Police Sgt. Jean Paul DiPietro was subpoenaed to testify in a whistleblower lawsuit alleging the department required officers to meet illegal ticket quotas. One of DiPietro's subordinates, Juan Iglesias, had repeatedly been disciplined for failing to meet a mark of three tickets per day despite a 2015 Florida law prohibiting police departments from establishing ticket quotas.
When DiPietro was summoned, he testified the department had an unwritten policy under the previous police chief requiring officers to issue two tickets a day. That number increased to three a day under Chief Sergio Velazquez, DiPietro said in his deposition. He testified he was under orders from his commander to discipline Iglesias and other officers who didn't meet the three-a-day ticket average.
DiPietro was fired July 30. In a recently filed federal lawsuit against the city, the mayor, and the police chief, DiPietro now claims his firing was in retaliation for testifying against the city in the whistleblower suit.
The suit says DiPietro "directly refuted and contradicted Hialeah's position in the Iglesias case, and the testimony of Velazquez and Hernandez, that Hialeah never had a ticket quota and that Hialeah complied with the law by discontinuing a ticket quota to comply with Florida law."
Lt. Eddie Rodriguez, a police spokesman, says the chief doesn't comment on ongoing lawsuits. But Rodriguez provided New Times with DiPietro's termination letter, which says the sergeant was fired for a laundry list of policy violations, including inattention to duty, falsifying records, and lying on daily activity reports.
Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernandez did not respond to a message seeking comment.
The saga began more than three years ago, when Iglesias wrote letters to Hernandez and Velazquez claiming the city was forcing officers to violate state statute by requiring them to issue three tickets a day.
"I am aware that other officers have also received discipline for not meeting the established three per day citation quota," the letter read. "It is becoming a systemic problem."
Iglesias claims he received multiple suspensions in retaliation. He filed suit against the city in March 2016 for violating the Florida Public Whistleblower Act, which protects against reprisals.
DiPietro wrote Iglesias up at least twice for failing to meet that count. And sergeant himself had been reprimanded a number of times for refusing to discipline Iglesias and other officers for not meeting the quota, court documents say. In his deposition and in an interview with New Times, DiPietro says he evaluated his officers for their overall daily performance, not simply for the number of tickets they issued.
"Sometimes they would have an arrest; sometimes I would consider that officers had a lot of reports for the day," DiPietro says. "They were going to calls and calls; they were on detail. I take that into consideration."
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An attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police, the union that represents Hialeah Police, told WSVN in 2017 that at least ten officers had complained about the department's quotas. The police chief denied there was ever a quota.
In the case of Iglesias, a Miami-Dade trial judge in March 2018 awarded him $305 and change for lost wages and ruled he had no right to damages for pain and suffering, emotional distress, and humiliation. Iglesias appealed the ruling and won, but he was fired during the appeals process for one of the same reasons DiPietro was terminated — falsification of records.
Iglesias and DiPietro tell New Times that what the city calls lying and falsification, they call human error. The two claim they accidentally wrote the wrong dates and times on some paperwork.
As of now, DiPietro and Iglesias are in arbitration with their respective unions in hopes of regaining their jobs with full seniority and benefits. The city has not yet formally responded to DiPietro's claims in court.