Longform

John Timoney, America’s Worst Cop

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Around that time, Timoney experienced family problems. His son Sean was arrested in New York. Police said the 25-year-old had tried to buy 400 pounds of marijuana from an undercover federal agent. The chief, who had not spoken with his only son for two years, at first didn't want to post bail, according to The New Yorker, which profiled the chief this past March. "Just let him rot in there," Timoney said of his son. "I don't give a shit." Eventually he put his Miami condo up as collateral for bail. It was especially painful because his daughter Christine had had heroin problems in the past.

As the year ended, Morgan Quitno, a Kansas publishing company, ranked Miami-Dade the fifth most dangerous large region in the nation.

Amount spent on travel in 2005: $5945

Days away from the city in 2005: 46


Timoney took nine trips in 2006. Among the globetrotter's destinations: D.C. (four times), San Francisco, Ottawa, Atlanta, Las Vegas, and Orlando.

It was the year the Liberty City Seven — a group of alleged Al-Qaeda wannabes — were nabbed by the feds. Timoney wasted no time in taking credit. His mug was on CNN within hours of the arrests.

The chief's brashness got him in trouble once again. On February 12, sometime around 1:00 a.m., he was at a party sponsored by Ocean Drive magazine when two New Times editors heard him utter, "Fuck the Cubans." The newspaper reported the comment, and TV stations followed the controversy.

Predictably some Cuban politicians and officers called for the chief's resignation. Still, no one in city government seemed to care about the expense reports the chief was racking up — or if they did, no one mentioned it publicly or asked him to cut down on travel.

Rather than attending late-night parties or traveling around the country, fighting crime likely should have been the chief's focus. The number of violent deaths in the city increased from 56 in 2005 to a jaw-dropping 79 in 2006. Timoney acknowledged some rise in killings but claimed overall crime was down. He told a USA Today reporter that downtown was "safe." But no one really knows how safe. The city's police union claims Timoney "cooked the books" on crime. Some officers contend reports were changed or misclassified — a burglary into an information report or a robbery downgraded to a theft, for instance. Timoney said it would take hundreds of people "conspiring" to change the stats, yet he did call for a Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigation into the allegations.

And Fraternal Order of Police President Armando Aguilar also takes issue with Timoney's rambling. "He's an absentee landlord," Aguilar says. "Miami should be his number one priority. He sells himself as an expert on everything."

City Manager Hernandez admits he has heard complaints about the chief's absences — especially because Timoney relies on his number two man, Frank Fernandez, to run the department in his absence. "The officers don't feel comfortable with the deputy chief," the city manager says.

Still, Timoney continues to hammer his message of homeland security. At the end of 2006, he announced a program dubbed "Miami Shield," which, in the agency's own words, "focus its efforts towards making soft targets within the community less vulnerable to terrorist actions." Some civil liberties groups, such as the ACLU, were wary of the plan because of its vagueness and potential for abuse.

Amount spent in 2006: $7138

Days away from the city in 2006: 30


City records show only two Timoney trips in 2007: one in January to the Florida Police Chiefs Winter Conference in St. Augustine, and another in April to the Police Executive Research Forum conference in Chicago. (Later in the year, Timoney would be named president of the board of directors of this organization.)

One journey wasn't on the books. Timoney visited Iraq for 10 days in July as part of a commission led by former General James Jones to study police security there. And the chief jetted to Washington earlier this month to unveil the commission's report and to speak to the National Press Club about the findings. It's unclear how he classified this time away from the city; records show he has taken only eight hours of vacation this year.

The chief's Iraq trip — and his subsequent Washington speech — were announced in the local media September 7 — just two weeks after the Lexus scandal was revealed by CBS 4 and days after the no-confidence vote. The Iraq trip was "ridiculous," says union President Aguilar. In an online law enforcement forum called leoaffairs.com, people claiming to be Miami Police officers called Timoney "T$," for "T-Money," and questioned why he needed to go to Iraq.

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Tamara Lush