The Miami Beach Police Department's basic mission statement tells officers to conduct themselves with "honor, courage, integrity." The slogan is routinely plastered on official city and department documents.
But when Lori Freedline, a civilian employee at MBPD, hung signs in her office that encouraged employees to act with "integrity" and to beware of "karma," her boss wasn't happy. In fact, Maj. W. Anthony Jones sent Freedline a message February 3 demanding she take the signs down because her call for "integrity" was offending officers.
She removed the signs immediately, but she still ended up getting disciplined and — after another squabble with her supervisors — now sits on paid suspension, Ernesto Rodriguez, a police spokesperson confirmed to New Times.
"Ms. Freedline has been placed on administrative leave with pay. Because this is a personnel matter, it would be inappropriate for the Department or the City to respond further to any inquiries," Rodriguez said via email. He declined to comment further about the incident. (Freedline did not respond to a written request for comment.)
Freedline works in the department's Court Liaison Office (CLO), where she approves officers' requests for overtime pay when they testify in court regarding criminal cases. Police officers across the nation have been caught abusing similar overtime systems, and in documents Freedline wrote protesting her punishment, she implied she was actually being retaliated against for refusing to give cops extra overtime benefits.
The clash over her signs came when she posted one that read, "Integrity is choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gain." The other said, "Karma: Do good things and good things will come your way. Karma will give back what you have given. Be very careful with your actions."
Those calls for basic human decency were too much for some MBPD cops. Jones demanded she remove them.
"It has been brought to my attention that you have posted a sign on the post board of the Court Liaison Office that references 'Integrity' and 'Karma,'" Jones' February email read. "Please immediately remove this signage as other employees frequenting the office may find this offensive."
Freedline took down the posters within 15 minutes. "Removed as ordered," she replied at 12:25 p.m.
But according to additional documents New Times obtained, Freedline was then placed on a disciplinary "Performance Action Plan," which the department uses to correct employees who are otherwise misbehaving. The plan's very first complaint: that her "integrity" sign was upsetting other cops.
She was cited for failing to "maintain a positive work attitude and environment," all thanks to those signs:
One of your signs contained the following: “Integrity...... choosing your thoughts and actions based on values rather than personal gain” and “Karma......be very careful with your actions.”
This signage was displayed in the entrance of the CLO and an additional copy was posted directly in front of Mrs. Acosta’s work station. Although the Miami Beach Court Liaison Office is just a few doors down from the Miami Dade Police Sheriff Court Service Bureau, several officers have now elected to routinely check into court via the Miami Dade Police Court Bureau as a substitute to Miami Beach CLO. On February 7, 2017, sixteen (16) of the thirty-nine (39) Miami Beach employees scheduled for court proceedings at the Miami Dade Justice Building checked into court via the Miami Dade Police Sheriff Court Service Bureau while you were manning the Miami Beach CLO.
On February 3, 2017, you were ordered to remove the above mentioned signage. Do not post signs or post notes in areas where other employees frequent and other employees’ work areas that are not work related and may be perceived as offensive. Use appropriate tone and words while communicating, whether in-person, phone, writing or email, and focus on the task at hand while speaking.
She was also cited for allegedly being "behind" in her overtime-request responsibilities, as well as for failing to properly "manage" her time and to "promote teamwork."
In a written response to the allegations, Freedline hit back. She outlined how the 16 cops who were supposedly too "offended" by the sign to enter her office had actually been running late to court that day and likely used a different office that was closer to the courtroom to save time.
"Integrity is a powerful word used within the Police Department and City of Miami Beach, and I am shocked Major Jones feels it is an offensive word and that any City employee would take offense to any signage referring to integrity," she wrote.
I have charted out the 16 officers' stamped in and out times for court that day (2/7/17) that Major Jones advised were offended by the Integrity and Karma signs and therefore would not come into the Miami Beach CLO office which I was manning, and here is a synopsis: 9 of the 16 officers were late to court. Therefore, they most likely used MDPD to save time as the MDPD office is located extremely close to the escalator and the MBPD CLO office is around a corner, down one hallway and at the entire end of the building down another hallway.
She said five other officers were listed as "almost late" and also likely used a closer office to check in.
On March 10, Freedline was disciplined yet again in another "Performance Action Plan" — this time for allegedly failing to award a cop overtime money.
But according to Freedline's response, in actuality, that officer had been told to take a day off on the day in question and had either mistakenly shown up to court or had willfully tried to game some added overtime money from the system. Freedline refused to award him extra money for showing up incorrectly and says she was written up in retaliation.
Keep Miami New Times Free... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Miami with no paywalls.