"We can confirm that Captain J. Ortiz has been relieved of duty with pay," spokesperson Michael Vega said via email.
Late last year, the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association (MCPBA) unearthed records showing Ortiz had claimed he was a white Hispanic man when he applied to work at MPD but then claimed in 2014 and 2017 on paperwork provided to New Times that he was a black man. The U.S. Department of Justice was monitoring the department at the time, and black officers accused Ortiz — already the most controversial cop in Miami with a long history of racist statements — of faking his race to boost the department's diversity statistics. At a city commission meeting last Friday, the MCPBA demanded Chief Jorge Colina address racism in his department or resign.
During that meeting, Ortiz stood up and defended himself. He claimed he was "a black male" and said that, after finding out he had black family members, the "one-drop rule" means he's actually black. He also said he was "a black male, or a Negro," while staring directly at the city's only black commissioner, Keon Hardemon. Over the weekend, the Miami-Dade County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) called Ortiz's comments "downright disturbing" and has since called for his termination.
New Times asked MPD its exact reasons for suspending the former union chief, but the department declined to comment further. Ortiz did not immediately respond to a message from New Times. Neither did Colina and Mayor Francis Suarez.
But the MCBPA's president, Sergeant Stanley Jean-Poix, stated that his union is happy that Colina finally suspended Ortiz and thankful for the chief's decision. But, he said, his union feels that there's still more work to be done to make MPD a better place.
"Eventually we'd like to see our other concerns addressed," he told New Times. "People who need to be disciplined need to be disciplined, and people who have been mistreated need to be made whole again."
Ortiz is far and away the most controversial cop in Miami. As the former head of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) from 2011 to 2017, he fought police oversight at every turn, praised Donald Trump constantly, and spent his free time defending cops who've killed black people. He once drew demonic eyes and teeth on a mugshot of a black defendant. He also infamously tried to start a nationwide Beyoncé boycott after claiming her 2016 Super Bowl performance was anti-police. He has tweeted to support the officers who've killed Michael Brown, Alton Sterling, and event 12-year-old Tamir Rice, whom Ortiz called a "thug."
#BREAKING: @MiamiPD Capt. @OrtizFOP tells city commission "I am a black male" after he was caught lying about his race on 2014 lieutenant's exam and 2017 captain's application — his original MPD application says he's white Hispanic #BecauseMiami pic.twitter.com/meaJ2mlQGn— Billy Corben (@BillyCorben) January 17, 2020
Ortiz has also repeatedly been accused of falsely arresting black people, including NFL players Jonathan Vilma and Robby Anderson. NBC Miami last year reported that the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office is investigating whether Ortiz's apparent abuse of the city's off-duty work rules violated the law. Ortiz was also accused of fabricating an arrest report that conflicted with video evidence taken from a beating he was involved in during the 2011 Ultra Music Festival. The matter was referred to prosecutors, but the State Attorney's Office took no action.
He nearly lost his job in 2017 after he doxxed a police critic who had complained about an officer driving at dangerously high speeds. Ortiz posted the woman's personal contact information online, so the woman, Claudia Castillo, obtained a temporary restraining order against him. He was taken off the street until a judge lifted the stay-away order. As of 2019, Ortiz had amassed 42 citizen complaints and been involved in 18 use-of-force incidents, according to city documents.
Despite those concerns, Ortiz was promoted through the department and is now a captain. He stepped down from running the FOP upon his latest promotion and installed the man he called his "best friend," fellow officer Edward Lugo, in the union's top role. Lugo lost his union election in 2018 to Tommy and Matt Reyes, brothers who said during their campaign that Ortiz and Lugo were actually hurting the cops they were supposed to be helping.
Ortiz's latest comments sparked national headlines once again and renewed calls for the department to fire him. Earlier this week, Rodney Jacobs, the assistant director of the Miami Civilian Investigative Panel, which reviews complaints against Miami cops, wrote a scathing Miami Herald op-ed calling Ortiz an embarrassment to the city. In a statement to New Times today, Jacobs said that although Ortiz's potential firing might involve "a long process," Miami residents, especially the city's black community, can rest a bit easier knowing the system finally took Ortiz off the street. Jacobs also thanked Colina for suspending Ortiz.
"This is a monumental day for the City of Miami," Jacobs said. "For a long time, Captain Ortiz has engaged in misconduct in this city. He has harmed the community, visitors, and police. Today, I hope, marks the beginning of the end of his time at MPD."
Update: At a City Commission meeting Thursday, Chief Colina stated that Ortiz was allegedly suspended because he's being investigated by an outside law-enforcement agency:
JUST IN: Miami Police Captain Javier Ortiz was suspended because of an investigation involving another agency & complaint could have a criminal or civil component.— Terrell Forney (@TerrellWPLG) January 23, 2020
The suspension did NOT have anything to do with the Ortiz’s assertion that he “is a black man.” @WPLGLocal10