Miami Police Find That Javi Ortiz Broke Rules by Posting Smiling Selfies Next to Suspects

Miami Police Find That Javi Ortiz Broke Rules by Posting Smiling Selfies Next to Suspects
Courtesy of Javier Ortiz
Under Miami Police Department rules, cops aren't allowed to post selfies on Instagram showing them grinning next to detained, handcuffed people. The rule might seem self-evident, but in January, New Times caught Miami Police Captain Javier Ortiz — the city's former police union chief known for insulting dead children, harassing citizens online, and bragging about his long list of use-of-force complaints — taking photos of himself smiling next to suspects in handcuffs and posting those selfies on his Instagram account, JaviFOP20. Bizarrely, he was also wearing someone else's police name tag on his uniform in a different shot.

Now MPD's internal affairs unit has ruled that Ortiz indeed broke the rules by posting the photos, sustaining a single "improper procedure" violation against him. Internal affairs documents say Ortiz also violated the city's rules that could, theoretically, have led to his firing. But it's unclear whether he has been punished over the violations.

IA's findings came despite Ortiz offering a ludicrous series of excuses. In interviews with investigators, he admitted he took the photos but claimed he did not know who posted many of the images on his Instagram page. He mentioned his account had been "compromised" or hacked somehow and provided documents showing he changed his password April 25. He even wondered if some of the images had been doctored.

click to enlarge JAVIER ORTIZ / INSTAGRAM
Javier Ortiz / Instagram
This being Miami, it's unlikely that Ortiz will ever face punishment for the policy violations: According to a state rule called the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, cops cannot be punished if internal disciplinary investigations take longer than 180 days. Internal affairs received a copy of the complaint against Ortiz February 13 and closed its case August 24 — a span of 192 days.

According to Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP) documents, Ortiz as has racked up 34 citizen complaints, one driving complaint, one suspension after a woman filed a temporary restraining order against him, and 18 use-of-force incidents since 2004. Ortiz briefly became infamous nationally after he tried to mount a police boycott of Beyoncé concerts after her Super Bowl halftime performance referenced the Black Panther Party. As Miami Fraternal Order of Police president, he was notorious around the city for his fervent Donald Trump fandom, his repeated defenses of American cops who killed black and brown people in questionable shootings (he called 12-year-old Tamir Rice a "thug"), and his constant tirades against the press, police oversight boards, and police critics in general.

He has been repeatedly sued for alleged beatings and has been accused of lying on sworn arrest affidavits. New Times earlier this year chronicled how Ortiz used his stance as an FOP representative to cut an ad for a Miami anti-aging clinic that dispenses testosterone and human growth hormone-related drugs to customers. He also nearly lost his job after he posted a police critic's contact information online, asked his followers to contact her, and smeared her by accusing her, without evidence, of drunk-driving a boat.

He stepped down as FOP president in 2017 when he was promoted from lieutenant to captain. His best friend, fellow officer Edward Lugo, is now running the FOP, though Ortiz is still an active vice president.

It appears Ortiz will evade punishment for what might be his most boneheaded violation yet: The photos he posted on Instagram clearly show him smiling next to detained individuals. After CIP members slammed him in April and called the incident a "rookie"-level mistake, IA too has at least verbally whacked him.

Ortiz offered a bevy of excuses for how the photographs made it onto his Instagram page. In one case, he claimed he'd never seen one photo collage on his account before and suggested the image might have been Photoshopped. He also suggested someone might have hacked his online cloud photo storage accounts and stolen the pic. He denied creating one photo collage and said he had no idea who blurred out the face of the detainee sitting handcuffed on the ground.

In a second case, Ortiz denied posting an image of a woman handcuffed on the ground with a smiley-face emoji obscuring her identity. He said he "may" have taken the initial photo of the woman but denied adding the emoji. He also said he did not believe there was anything "derogatory" about the image. Investigators didn't buy it.

"The investigation revealed all images in the collage, which contained a photograph of a female detainee, were part of the same incident, which was an active crime scene," IA documents state.
Javier Ortiz / Instagram
Ortiz and other officers also explained how the former union head wound up getting photographed wearing someone else's name tag. The anonymous complainant who sent the documents to the city worried that Ortiz was using a fake name tag to avoid civilian complaints, but Ortiz and other officers denied that was the case. Instead, another officer told IA that he let Ortiz borrow his embroidered shirt for a parade so Ortiz would have the correct uniform. Ortiz told investigators the same story.

Javier Ortiz / Instagram
Oddly, a CIP member offered an entirely different story during a city meeting in April. William Scarola, a former police officer who has since left the CIP, claimed that Ortiz had been the subject of a "death threat" and that then-Chief Rodolfo Llanes had signed off on giving Ortiz a fake "Gonzalez" name tag "years ago." It's unclear what threat Scarola was referring to, and Ortiz made no mention of that story when speaking to IA investigators.

But during the internal investigation, Ortiz provided investigators a photograph he claimed showed him wearing the correct name tag later the same day. Investigators quickly deduced the photograph was from a different event. He said he submitted the wrong photo by mistake.

Speaking with New Times earlier this year, Ortiz stressed that the name-tag debacle was a simple mixup and nothing nefarious.

“Thanks to the Miami New Times, I don’t really need a name tag anyway because everyone knows me!” Ortiz texted. He added: “I’m proud to be Ortiz, trust me.”
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.