Andrea Landa and two friends were sitting in her parked car one Sunday night when a trio of young police officers walked up with flashlights. The cops checked the friends' IDs, but wouldn't let them leave. Instead, over the next two hours, the officers toyed with their guns, told one of the women she "should've checked the weather and worn more clothes" and threatened Landa with arrest when she asked for their badge numbers.
Landa and her friends weren't allowed to go until someone came to pick them up. But the officers never wrote a report for the incident.
"I just think that they were bored," Landa, 22, tells New Times. "I think that they had nothing else to do and they saw, you know, an opportunity to just mess around and take advantage of the power that they knew they had."
Three months after the April ordeal, investigators with the Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP) have recommended sustaining allegations of improper procedure against Officers Ramon Washington, Andrew Garcia, and Marvin Lopez for detaining the group without documenting a reason. Investigators also sustained a second count of improper procedure against Washington and Garcia for not generating a daily worksheet.
The Miami Police Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The three officers, who could not be reached by the CIP, were each hired within the last three years and had never before received a complaint.
According to investigators, Washington, Garcia, and Lopez approached Landa's car, which was parked near NW North River Drive and 24th Street, around 10:30 p.m. on April 10. Landa sat inside with her cousin and a friend. After checking their IDs, the officers questioned the three about who they lived with, then made them call their families and tell them what was going on — even though they were adults. When Landa asked why, she was threatened with arrest.
"We are just here on a Sunday night looking for something good, but we thought we would find something better," Landa recalls one of the officers saying.
She says an officer asked her about her nationality and commented that he thought she was Dominican since she was so "feisty." At one point the cops made her sit in the back of her car because she was asking too many questions.
Around that time, she asked for their badge numbers. An officer said that if he gave it to her, he'd also have to give her a notice to appear in court. When she said that wasn't true, an officer shot back, "Do you have a degree in criminal justice?" One of the other officers ultimately wrote the badge numbers down.
The cops wouldn't let Landa drive her own car home, so she and her friends had to wait for another friend to arrive and drive them. She filed her complaint with the CIP the next day. "Before my encounter with these gentlemen," she wrote, "I had such high respect for the men in blue, and their job."
The CIP asked the Miami Police Department for records of the incident and learned that no April 10 worksheets could be found for Officers Washington and Garcia. Officer Lopez's worksheet reported that he was on a "Conduct an Investigation/Detail" for an hour and 21 minutes, and his brief description of events included a case number, three driver's licenses, and three phone numbers.
Landa, who says she felt humiliated and vulnerable during the pointless detainment, was relieved that the CIP investigators sided with her.
"I know that nothing's going to happen with them and their jobs and I hope nothing really happens because they're young and they need to learn," she says. "And this is something they're going to remember — 'I remember when I was young and stupid' — and hopefully they don't do it again."
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