A broken clock is right twice a day, and Miami has the bizarre pleasure of having two busted timepieces in police captain Javier Ortiz and city commissioner Joe Carollo.
For years now, Ortiz and Carollo have been Miami's dynamic duo for everything batshit-crazy and corrupt in the Magic City. Ortiz is a former police union president who is regularly accused of using excessive force on citizens, and he's currently under suspension from the Miami Police Department while being investigated by an outside law enforcement agency. Carollo is an elected official known for harassing local businesses and yelling "I am the law!" when he's not dodging a recall effort.
The two men used to be allies — the police union under Ortiz at one point endorsed Carollo for the city commission — but a recent incident involving the detainment of anti-communism protesters has the pair at each other's throats. And in the course of their falling-out, they've shaken Miamians' collective faith in the immutability of human nature by making some astute observations.
Yes seemed like yesterday ???? pic.twitter.com/hEwtN9kscv— dark blue man (@darkblueman1) December 1, 2020
This past Saturday, during a rally in front of Versailles restaurant in Little Havana in support of the San Isidro protest movement in Cuba, five demonstrators were arrested and detained by the Miami Police Department (MPD), including social-media influencer Alex Otaola. After an altercation involving a Castro sympathizer got protesters riled up, officers detained five men after they refused to stop chanting and agitating the crowd, according to an MPD incident report provided to New Times.
The detainees were released after some intervention by Carollo and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who personally called the police chief about the arrests.
Ortiz has since criticized Carollo for his meddling. In a video on Sunday addressed to police-union members, Ortiz accused Carollo of interfering with police business when he visited the MPD building where the demonstrators were held shortly before the men were released from custody without charges.
"Talk about corruption, talk about [my] concern for our membership, when they're out there making lawful arrests and we have people getting involved who have no business getting involved, especially when it comes to law enforcement matters," Ortiz says in the video.
Ortiz goes on to say that if the demonstration had been about any other topic besides Cuba, such as Black Lives Matter or trans rights, Carollo never would have gotten involved.
"You don't see Commissioner Carollo going to those events and telling them, 'Hey, everything's going to be OK,' and then all of a sudden 'poof' and those people are unarrested," Ortiz says.
Ortiz isn't wrong, which is not a string of words most New Times readers are accustomed to seeing.
When scores of social-justice protesters were arrested in downtown Miami after the death of George Floyd, commissioners didn't come to their aid. Far from it: When Miami police swarmed and tackled a small group of protesters after they spray-painted a statue of Christopher Columbus in Bayfront Park, Carollo pushed a new law that would allow police to further punish individuals for vandalism.
In the case of the five protesters rounded up outside Versailles, MPD spokesperson Kenia Fallat told the Miami Herald they were released because no crime was committed.
Reached by New Times, Carollo declined to comment, saying he had already spoken with other news outlets about the incident.
"I have a problem with speaking to a newspaper — I'll call you a newspaper, to be politically correct — that is so unbalanced when it deals with me. So I don't want to get into talking about Ortiz," Carollo said.
On Monday, Carollo told WPLG that the five Versailles protesters were already due for release, and he only went to the police station to calm them down.
And the commissioner didn't hesitate to clap back at Ortiz. In his interview with the TV station, Carollo criticized the police captain for his history of roughing up arrestees, calling Ortiz "the worst cop that we've ever had in the history of Miami, a guy that has used the badge to abuse and beat up scores of our citizens."
Carollo isn't wrong, either.
Ortiz was blasted by an appellate judge in 2019 for crossing a line when he slammed a man's head into a car and left him in handcuffs that were excessively tightened for five hours. The ex-union boss was also accused of pushing a woman to the ground and breaking her wrist during Art Basel in 2017. To date, Ortiz has 42 citizen complaints and 18 use-of-force incidents on his record.
Carollo is no angel and Ortiz is no saint, but in this one bizarre case, they're both correct: Elected officials shouldn't meddle in police business, and police shouldn't abuse their power.
Irregardless, this beef has made for some great only-in-Miami entertainment. It's kinda like if the Joker fought with Lex Luthor, but both of them went to Florida International University.
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