Ortiz-Backed Group Loses Control of Miami Police UnionEXPAND
Javier Ortiz via Twitter

Ortiz-Backed Group Loses Control of Miami Police Union

Javier Ortiz has led the City of Miami Fraternal Order of Police since 2011. In that time, he has racked up excessive-force complaints, been sued a few times, and said demonstrably racist things on social media. He has also mysteriously escaped punishment after multiple Internal Affairs investigations and nearly lost his job after he was caught harassing a police critic online. He appeared to be made from Teflon.

But after a coalition of his handpicked successors lost last week's FOP leadership elections, Ortiz's power over the police union — and, by proxy, city hall — appears to have finally taken a nosedive. Official vote tallies have not yet been released, but the FOP released a group-wide email at 4 p.m. Saturday announcing the winners. New Times obtained a copy.

The FOP's new president and vice president will be Tommy and Matthew Reyes, brothers who announced their run for the union leadership by calling Ortiz and his cronies "corrupt" and unfit to lead. The two have promised to audit the union's financial books and implied that the FOP might have been mismanaging money. (The brothers won’t assume office until January 2019.) Tommy Reyes did not respond to a message today from New Times. Matthew Reyes declined to comment.

According to their campaign videos, Tommy and Matthew Reyes began working for the Miami Police Department in 2005 and 2007, respectively. Tommy works midnight shifts in the city's central district, while Matthew patrols Little Haiti overnight. Their stepfather was also an MPD cop. Both brothers have worked for the FOP in some capacity for a few years.

"Recently, we've come to realize that the FOP leadership doesn't have our best interests in mind," Matthew Reyes said in a campaign video earlier this year. "We've seen firsthand some of the questionable practices they participate in on a regular basis."

In 2017, Ortiz stepped down as union president after he was promoted from lieutenant to captain. In exchange, he "appointed" his self-described "best friend," Ed Lugo, to head the FOP. But it seemed Ortiz was still effectively running the group through Lugo — Ortiz even led this year's union contract negotiations with the city. Lugo then campaigned to retain the presidency, and another Ortiz pal, Roberto Destephan, served as his running mate.

Destephan was then caught on tape throwing out Hebrew texts and calling the books "trash" in an obviously anti-Semitic video. He and the FOP maintained the video was edited to smear him and released as "blackmail" during the union election. The chief and most members of the public didn't seem to buy that excuse because it's pretty weird to live-stream yourself taking out so-called garbage on a normal afternoon. MPD Chief Jorge Colina then met with an Israeli government representative to discuss the incident.

Lugo was also nearly fired after getting caught in an FBI sting. Undercover agents told him about an illegal shipping operation, which he failed to report. Miami PD ordered his termination, but Ortiz, as FOP president, swooped in to help his pal keep his job.

More than anything else, the vote is a repudiation of Ortiz's years running the union and exerting remarkable control over the police department and Miami City Hall. He has brought a near-constant stream of awful press to MPD and the city. This has included comments defending officers accused of murder (he once called slain 12-year-old Tamir Rice a "thug" who deserved to die) and an effort to incite a boycott of Beyoncé for referencing the Black Panthers in her Super Bowl halftime show. He also posted a private police critic's contact information online, made up outright lies about her, and encouraged his followers to contact her at her home. Ortiz nearly lost his job over that incident — he was whacked with a temporary restraining order and stripped of his gun for a brief period last year. He later won his gun back and was subsequently promoted.

As New Times has recounted again and again and again and again, Ortiz has regularly escaped punishment for obvious departmental violations. New Times once caught him blatantly violating the department's social media policy by posting smiling selfies next to handcuffed suspects. He claimed his account had been hacked. Internal Affairs sustained violations against him anyway. New Times also caught Ortiz on tape using harsh words while arresting a Miami man named Polini Sanon for a low-level marijuana offense. By law, Ortiz could have simply issued a ticket for possession of a tiny amount of weed. Instead, Sanon says, Ortiz arrested him after committing multiple rule violations. Video evidence directly contradicted a sworn statement the cop later gave police investigators.

Ortiz has also been caught filing "inconsistent" arrest paperwork in what appear to be cases of perjury. In 2011, he and a group of cops were filmed discharging their Tasers on an Ultra Music Festival attendee. Ortiz claimed the suspect tried to fight the cops, but video evidence showed otherwise. A lawyer involved in the case referred the incident to the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office and warned it appeared that Ortiz had perjured himself. State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle did nothing.

In another case, Ortiz (who has a weird habit of arresting famous black athletes) claimed NFL wide receiver Robby Anderson shoved him at last year's Rolling Loud Festival. Prosecutors dropped the charges against Anderson after other cops said they did not see anyone shove Ortiz. (It is perhaps not stunning that Ortiz, who has racked up at least 38 complaints in 56 incidents, was also a constant critic of police-oversight boards and fought tirelessly to rid the city of the Civilian Investigative Panel, a group of everyday city employees that reviews allegations of police misconduct.)

And it seems Ortiz and Lugo were not popular with many members of their department. Anonymous users in online, police-based forums, such as the site LEOAffairs.com, routinely lambasted their crew for being "corrupt" and a close-knit clique of cops who were out for themselves. Many commenters and sources who have spoken with New Times over the years have said the department was often embarrassed by the headlines Ortiz generated. Critics still question why first-year Mayor Francis Suarez and Chief Jorge Colina have stuck by Ortiz since they took office.

In the meantime, the Reyes brothers have come into their new positions the same day that other officers were filmed shoving black men outside the Miami nightclub E11even. Welcome to the job.

We use cookies to collect and analyze information on site performance and usage, and to enhance and customize content and advertisements. By clicking 'X' or continuing to use the site, you agree to allow cookies to be placed. To find out more, visit our cookies policy and our privacy policy.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.


Join the New Times community and help support independent local journalism in Miami.