Police

Miami Police Capt. Javier Ortiz Seeks Whistleblower Protection UPDATED

Miami Police Capt. Javier Ortiz and Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo
Miami Police Capt. Javier Ortiz and Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo Photos via YouTube, Miami Police Department
Update published 10/12/2021 6:30 p.m.: Following publication of this story, Miami Police Department (MPD) Capt. Javier Ortiz emailed New Times requesting a correction.

"Your article published today titled 'Javier "Bill Schahwartzman" Ortiz Seeks Whistleblower Protection' is misleading and untruthful," Ortiz wrote. "My attorney [Richard Diaz] never stated that I sent an anonymous email or used that alias. What he said was I reported the corruption involving Major Keandra Simmons and Commander Nerly Papier. This was done in writing and hand-delivered to the Chief of Police."

Reached on vacation in Spain, Diaz says
 he "was mistaken" in his previous conversation with New Times and that he had "conflated the anonymous email with Javier's making the complaint."

Diaz clarifies that his client is "absolutely not" Bill Schahwartzman.


"Just to be clear and correct: Javier was not the person who authored the anonymous complaint. He did make a non-anonymous complaint pretty much contemporaneous with the time that the anonymous complaint was sent," Diaz says
.

According to MPD Internal Affairs records, investigators received an anonymous complaint about the Papier crash on April 4 and then received a second, formal complaint on April 7.

New Times has requested a copy of the formal complaint.

This story and its headline have been updated to reflect Diaz's clarification.

When Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo arrived in April, he declared that he would rid the Miami Police Department (MPD) of bad cops.

Yet six months later, Acevedo has just been suspended as the first step toward dismissal, while the department's most controversial officer, Capt. Javier Ortiz, who has racked up 58 citizens' complaints regarding offenses ranging from abuse of force to discourtesy to the public, remains a member of the force.

And here is a possible reason why.

On April 4, 2021, an encrypted email from someone using the alias "Bill Schahwartzman" landed in the inboxes of Acevedo, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, and a handful of local reporters. "Schahwartzman" claimed that then-MPD deputy chief Ronald Papier had covered up a crash involving his wife, Cmdr. Nerly Papier, who'd been driving "under the influence of control substances" and crashed a police vehicle into a curb "at approximately 40 miles an hour."

Nineteen days later, Acevedo suspended the Papiers. By June, they were terminated.

Acevedo's firing of the Papiers so early in his tenure rocked the entire police force. While it showed that the new chief was serious about cleaning up the department and firing problematic cops, some considered the high-profile shakeup an unjustified publicity stunt.

Then, in last month's special hours-long Miami City Commission meeting that was called specifically to berate Acevedo for an off-the-cuff quip about the department being run by a "Cuban Mafia," Commissioner Joe Carollo accused Acevedo of covering for Javier Ortiz.

"If [Acevedo] would've been telling me that he was talking about his main defender and henchman, Javi Ortiz, I could believe it," Carollo said at the September 25 meeting. "But the worst abuser of our citizens and residents in Miami and the state of Florida, that's his henchman that he's been protecting and given carte blanche to."

Now, attorney Richard Diaz tells New Times that while his client is "absolutely not" Bill Schahwartzman, he says Ortiz did submit a formal complaint about the Papiers to Acevedo, and is seeking protection under Florida's whistleblower statute, presumably to shield him from any adverse employment actions.

"You can officially report that Javier Ortiz was the complainant," Diaz says.

Carollo's claim seemed baseless when he uttered it from the dais. But an April 23 reprimand written by then-Maj. Keandra Simmons and obtained by New Times (attached below) states that in an April 14 incident, Ortiz staked out the home of a vehicle owner who had fled police without being dispatched, waited for the driver to arrive, and then arrested him at gunpoint. According to Simmons, Ortiz had been forbidden to "interpolate himself into patrol functions," and she wrote him up for defying a direct order and for being late to his post (at the time he made the arrest, he was supposed to be in the fleet office).

But Ortiz's reprimand was never approved and did not go into his file.

That's because Acevedo didn't sign off on it, according to Diaz and Michael Pizzi, an attorney for Simmons.

Simmons was MPD's second-highest ranked Black female officer until Acevedo demoted her to Lieutenant in August when he eliminated four major positions. Pizzi explains that like Ortiz, his client is seeking whistleblower protection as she moves forward with a lawsuit against Acevedo, Suarez, the MPD, and city manager Art Noriega for "injuries sustained from defamation, racial- and gender-based discrimination, harassment, and deprivation of First Amendment and Due Process [rights]."

Pizzi contends that Acevedo was covering for Ortiz and that he forbade Simmons from disciplining him and did not green-light the reprimand.

"In the skewed world of Acevedo, Ortiz could not be disciplined for something that deserved discipline and was warranted," Pizzi tells New Times. "But other people, including Keandra [Simmons], got bogus reprimands and demotions when it wasn't warranted."

Back in April, Acevedo had just been sworn in and Ortiz had just returned from a yearlong suspension amid an FBI investigation into allegations that the captain had engaged in a pattern of abuse against minorities and regularly got away with it. Ortiz was assigned to MPD's fleet division in March and was instructed not to involve himself in patrol functions.

Simmons stated in her reprimand that Ortiz said he would not monitor his radio to ensure he didn't get involved where he wasn't supposed to.

"Ortiz was not pleased with this directive," Simmons wrote, "but he agreed to not involve himself in other areas outside of fleet."

Diaz tells New Times that during the April 14 incident, his client was on duty getting coffee nearby when he heard officers over the radio talking about a fleeing vehicle and asked for the address associated with the license plate. He pulled a gun because he believed it was a "high-risk" traffic stop, and he called other officers to assist in the arrest.

"He vehemently denies being told not to monitor his radio," Diaz says. "That would be illegal, because departmental orders require every officer to monitor their radio."

Diaz says Ortiz believes the chief didn't sign the reprimand because it may have been considered retaliatory after Ortiz disclosed information about the Papiers.

MPD's public information office did not respond to an emailed request for comment about Simmons' aborted reprimand of Ortiz.

Reached via text, Acevedo declined to comment. "Unfortunately I am precluded from discussing this matter at this time," he said.

Back in July, however, Acevedo told New Times he had met with labor attorneys to see whether there was any action he could take against Ortiz. At that time, he said his hands were tied since the issues transpired before he arrived in Miami.

"Sooner or later there's gonna be something that will stick and his career is gonna come to a screeching halt," Acevedo warned, adding that Ortiz had been assigned a body-worn camera that would make it easier to terminate him should any instances of misconduct or abuse of power take place.

Simmons' attempted reprimand suggests that Ortiz did indeed mess up on Acevedo's watch.

And despite the chief's prediction, Ortiz is still on the force despite nearly two decades of alleged abuses, while Acevedo appears to be clearing out his desk.
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Joshua Ceballos is staff writer for Miami New Times. He is a Florida International University alum and a born-and-bred Miami boy.
Contact: Joshua Ceballos