In June 2015, a 17-year-old girl told multiple news outlets that Hialeah Police Sgt. Jesus "Jesse" Menocal Jr. threatened to sexually assault her while he was on-duty. The teen told multiple TV stations that Menocal arrested her for making an illegal U-turn, cornered her in a Hialeah Police station, and demanded she remove her bra and shorts or she "was going to get arrested." The teen told CBS Miami that Menocal rubbed his genitals through his uniform while making his demands and asked if the teen "was a virgin."
The girl — who wasn't named due to her age and the nature of the allegations — said Menocal ultimately released her after she took her shorts off. Hialeah Police told reporters that Menocal had been suspended with pay as of June 14, 2015, the day the department received a complaint about the incident.
But Hialeah Police spokesperson Carl Zogby now tells New Times that Menocal was "never suspended" and, after a stint supervising the police academy, is now back on patrol. That's despite the fact that two years later, Hialeah's internal affairs department still hasn't closed an investigation into the teen's disturbing allegations.
"Sgt. Menocal was never suspended, but the IA case is not closed, thereby not available for public records release yet," Zogby says via email. "He is back on patrol, and that is an operational needs decision."
It's unclear why Hialeah PD initially said the cop had been suspended. In fact, Zogby himself told CBS Miami in 2015 that the officer had been taken off duty. CBS also reported that the department confiscated Menocal's gun and towed his cruiser.
But this past Monday, Zogby said any news reports claiming Menocal was suspended were "inaccurate."
"There was no suspension that I am aware of," Zogby said via phone yesterday afternoon. Zogby did not respond to multiple follow-up messages about his own contradictory statements in 2015.
Given that the so-called IA investigation into Menocal's conduct has now stretched for more than two years, it would be extremely difficult for the department to punish him even if investigators determined the girl was telling the truth. Under the Florida Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, if an IA probe takes longer than 180 days to complete, the officer in question cannot be punished. (The 180-day count pauses if prosecutors have an open investigation into an officer's conduct.)
The incident also raises questions as to why Miami-Dade County State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, who regularly lets police-misconduct cases stretch out for years, has not charged Menocal with a crime for his alleged actions. Hialeah Police said they were sharing information about the case with Rundle's office two years ago.
In 2015, when he was accused, Menocal was a SWAT officer. In an interview with CBS, the teen claimed Menocal put her in the back of his cruiser and drove her to a nearby police station. He asked her girlfriend to follow the cruiser in her own car.
Menocal then allegedly walked the victim into the police station and locked the teen in a room with him — alone.
"He asked me if I was a virgin,” the alleged victim told CBS. “He asked me how I have intercourse with my girlfriend. I told him I don’t know. Why? I don’t think that’s important.”
The teen said Menocal then demanded she
"And he tells me to take off my shirt and my bra together,” she told CBS. “I told him this is insane. This is unnecessary. I don’t want to. I don’t need to. I don’t want to. He told me, ‘Oh, I thought you wanted to have intercourse with me.'"
After that, Menocal relented and let her go, she said. Her girlfriend was waiting outside in the car. The pair said they immediately called the department to complain.
Zogby confirmed via phone that internal affairs
Menocal is the son of former Sweetwater Police Chief Jesus Menocal Sr. The elder Menocal applied to be a City of Miami cop during the mid-'80s cocaine wave but was disqualified after getting caught in a 1984 investigation allegedly agreeing to become a cocaine trafficker's bodyguard, as well as plotting a drug heist. Menocal Sr. denied those charges.
Menocal Sr. wasn't even the person police were investigating at the time. Cops were actually looking into Menocal Sr.'s brother Ignacio, who also allegedly had loose ties to the criminal underworld.
Despite those concerns, the Florida Department of Corrections hired Menocal Sr. later that year. Then, in 1986, Sweetwater Police hired him (and later his brother Ignacio), and he remained with that department for decades. He rose through the ranks to become chief in 2013 before resigning two years later.
But while Menocal Sr. was chief in Sweetwater, the FBI says he reigned over one of the most corrupt police departments in Florida. Earlier this year, federal investigators unsealed a wave of indictments against Sweetwater cops, who were accused of, among other things, stealing iPads, TVs, and a truck from one man; beating a suspected thief for hours inside a police station; and water-boarding a man for hours until he falsely confessed to a burglary. (The FBI's probe began under Menocal Sr.'s predecessor, Chief Roberto Fulgueira, but continued until after Menocal Sr. resigned.)
As for Hialeah PD, the revelation that the department still hasn't closed its investigation into Menocal Jr. is sure to raise concerns.
In 2015, an Associated Press investigation into sexual assault by police officers found that thousands of cops have lost their badges after using their status to sexually assault citizens. The AP reported that more than 1,000 cops lost their badges in a six-year period for crimes including rape, sodomy, sex assault, child pornography, harassment, consensual sex on-duty, and propositioning victims.
"It's happening probably in every law enforcement agency across the country,” Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino, who studied the problem for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, told the AP. “It’s so underreported, and people are scared that if they call and complain about a police officer, they think every other police officer is going to be then out to get them.”
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