Police

"He Needs to Go": Civilian Panel Decries Miami Police Major's Alleged Use of N-Word

Miami Police Department Maj. Umset Ramos
Miami Police Department Maj. Umset Ramos Screenshot from Miami Police Department via YouTube
In a years-old recording, a white, Hispanic Miami Police Department (MPD) major allegedly can be heard using the n-word after witnessing a Black man get hit by a truck. A civilian watchdog panel listened to the recording for the first time last week and is seeking disciplinary action against the officer, which might rise to the level of termination.

Maj. Umset Ramos is now one of MPD's top brass — the major in charge of the department's South District. But eight years ago, he was a sergeant and investigator in MPD's Internal Affairs (IA) unit, assigned to a case involving then-Det. Luis Valdes, a drug-unit officer who had testified against his former boss, whom Valdes and others suspected of making false arrests and stealing drugs from crime scenes. (New Times previously covered that case in a November 2020 story.)

Valdes alleges that on January 9, 2014, Ramos invited him to the parking lot of a gas station outside police headquarters to persuade the detective to sign a document saying he'd lied on a report — something Valdes contends is untrue — or be terminated.

Valdes surreptitiously recorded the conversation with Ramos, during which a traffic incident occurred nearby, wherein a Black man was hit by a truck, prompting a comment from Ramos.

"Oh I thought that nigger got hit," a voice apparently belonging to Ramos can be heard saying in the recording, which was reviewed by New Times. The utterance comes at the 8:55 mark in the video embedded below.
Though the cloak-and-dagger conversation transpired more than eight years ago, last week the Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP), an independent board that reviews complaints of police misconduct at MPD, heard the recording for the first time, prompting outrage from some of its members.

"Major Ramos needs to go. He needs to be off the force," panel member George Ray III said during last Thursday's meeting.

Ray and other CIP members were doubly dismayed: While allegedly attempting to pressure a fellow police officer to admit to a misdeed he hadn't committed, an IA investigator had casually used a racial slur.

CIP staff had initially recommended issuing a finding of improper procedure based on Ramos' coercion and intimidation of Valdes, but after hearing the recording, the panel took it a step further.

Though CIP does not have the power to directly punish officers or issue reprimands, it makes recommendations to the chief of police. In Ramos' case, the panel recommended that Chief Manny Morales sustain an allegation of "misconduct" against the major, a more serious charge.

"It was pretty upsetting to the panel as to what we heard in that recording," CIP Chair Maithe Gonzales tells New Times. "Basically, what was said was something that points to discrimination — something we don’t want to hear from police officers."

The panel also voted to draft a letter to Chief Morales requesting special attention to the matter and some form of reprimand against Ramos.

Reached by New Times via email through the MPD's Public Information Office, Morales said the content of the tape was "unacceptable" and that the responsible party could be fired. But the chief stopped short of a verdict, saying MPD first needs to verify the identity of the speaker.

"If the evidence demonstrates that the statement was in fact made by a member of the Miami Police Department, they will be subject to discipline up to and including termination. A further analysis of the tape is being conducted to determine the responsible party," Morales told New Times.

CIP investigator Michael Lucas reviewed the recording and is satisfied that the speaker was Ramos.

The conversation between Ramos and Valdes is one of several pieces of evidence that support the latter's allegations of widespread corruption within the MPD.

Valdes was terminated after refusing to take the deal discussed during the recorded conversation. In an ongoing lawsuit filed in 2020, Valdes accused former MPD Chief Jorge Colina — who was the head of IA and Ramos' superior in 2014 at the time the recording was made — of forcing Valdes to say he lied in retaliation for testifying against then-Sgt. Raul Iglesias. Iglesias was investigated by the FBI and arrested on charges of violating a suspect's civil rights and obstructing justice after Valdes and others spoke out against him. He was sentenced to four years in prison in 2013 and has since served his time.

Other officers have come forward alleging similar corruption within the department, including Sgt. Edwin Gomez, who claimed retaliation in an ongoing federal lawsuit after he and three other senior members of MPD spoke out against then-Fraternal Order of Police union president Javier Ortiz. Gomez alleges in the suit that Colina offered him a similar "deal," summoning him to meet at a Starbucks in 2014 to request that he sign a reprimand and waive his rights to due process. (For more about that case, see this New Times story from November 2021.)

Valdes' attorney, Michael Espinal of Espinal Law, told New Times via email that after hearing the recording and watching the CIP's discussion, he hopes Chief Morales will clear his client's name and reinstate him after all these years.

"We hope the City of Miami and the chief of police acknowledge the truth that the IA investigation against our client, led by Umset Ramos, was from the very start rooted in corruption, malfeasance and impropriety," Espinal wrote.
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Joshua Ceballos is staff writer for Miami New Times. He is a Florida International University alum and a born-and-bred Miami boy.
Contact: Joshua Ceballos