Black Police Union Calls for Ouster of Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina

Miami's black police union is calling on city leaders to fire Chief Jorge Colina.
Miami's black police union is calling on city leaders to fire Chief Jorge Colina. Photo by City of Miami Police
This story has been updated to provide responses from MPD Deputy Chief Ronald Papier.

There's no question Chief Jorge Colina inherited a police force riddled with problems. When he took over for Rudy Llanes in January 2018, the Miami Police Department was already under a federal consent decree owing to a pattern of excessive force and shootings. Complaints from black citizens had been skyrocketing. And the entire department was more or less run by Javier Ortiz, a cop with a long history of corrupt behavior who was then the leader of Miami's powerful Fraternal Order of Police.

But in his nearly two years as the head of the police department, Colina has done little to fix those problems, according to Miami's black police union, the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association (MCPBA). The organization, which has about 300 members, has issued a vote of no confidence in Colina and is calling for his removal. In a news conference scheduled for later today, the union will ask Miami City Manager Emilio Gonzalez, Mayor Francis Suarez, and the city commission to fire Colina and begin a nationwide search for a replacement.

"Ultimately, we think it's time for Chief Colina to step down," MCPBA President Sgt. Stanley Jean-Poix tells New Times.

In a statement sent via police spokesman Cmdr. Freddie Cruz, Colina wrote he is "deeply concerned" by MCPBA's allegations. He denied the accusations of racial discrimination.

"Despite the disheartening negativity being promoted by the MCPBA, I would like the men and women of this agency to know how I proud I am of their accomplishments over the past two years," Colina stated.

He added he is in Kentucky accepting an award on his department's behalf from the Commission for Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. (The MCPBA complaint, along with the chief's full statement to New Times, can be found at the bottom of this post.)

Jean-Poix and MCPBA vice president Lt. Ramon Carr say they've met with Colina on multiple occasions to address their membership's concerns about his leadership. But the two say their grievances have fallen on deaf ears.

The union heads believe the problems fall into two main categories: disparate treatment of black officers and incompetency of leadership.

Jean-Poix and Carr say the chain of command fails to seriously address complaints of racial discrimination. In one instance this past March, Det. Ezra Washington, who is black, found a disturbing illustration on his desk depicting a decapitated black man:
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Photo courtesy of MCPBA
Washington reported the incident to his supervisor, but no investigation took place and the person suspected of leaving the illustration on Washington's desk was not disciplined, according to the MCPBA. (MPD Deputy Chief Ronald Papier says the city's Office of Equal Opportunity and Diversity Program found no discrimination, so "there was therefore no one to discipline.")

In another instance, the union leaders say Fignole Lubin, another black detective, faced discrimination because of his age and his Haitian accent. In 2018, Lubin claimed, he was pressured to arrest three murder suspects despite his concerns that he had not yet been able to confirm their alibis. It was later discovered that one of the suspects, Anthony Clinch, had a solid alibi. The charges against the other two suspects were also dropped. MCPBA says Lubin was blamed for the wrongful arrest. (Papier says he is "unaware of this allegation.")

Jean-Poix and Carr add that black officers are routinely disciplined or pushed out of prominent positions while white and Hispanic officers more frequently get a pass. (Papier states: "I am unaware of any data supporting an allegation of disparate disciplinary treatment. If the MCPBA has any data to support this allegation, we will review it.")

Moreover, the union believes Colina has turned a blind eye to misdeeds in his department.

Jean-Poix and Carr point to multiple transgressions by Ortiz, who remains on active duty and an ultrapowerful captain despite having lost control of the FOP union late last year. According to department records, Ortiz has racked up 60 charges of misconduct in 42 citizen complaints. Eighteen cases involve excessive use of force.

The MCPBA says Ortiz has made a mockery of minority hiring practices and points to the fact that Ortiz identified himself as black on a 2014 lieutenant's examination and a 2017 application to become captain. (Ortiz's initial application to MPD and his driver's license indicate he is a white Hispanic.)

Jean-Poix says that distinction matters because of a 1970s-era consent decree mandating that MPD hire more minorities and women. He believes Ortiz was mocking the initiative and says it's become a "running joke" that Ortiz is one of the department's only black captains.

"They say it at commission all the time," Jean-Poix says.

MCPBA also questions why internal affairs, the division within the police department that investigates officers for misconduct, has rarely disciplined Ortiz.

"He's never getting sustained on anything," Carr says. "He's only been sustained six times. This is unheard of."

Papier, meanwhile insists that Ortiz "is subject to the same departmental policies and disciplinary processes as any other employee."

Separately, the black police union takes issue with Lt. Jean-Paul Guillot's overseeing the department's new recruits in the police academy. According to department records, Colina — then a major in internal affairs — helped fire Guillot in 2014 for abusive treatment, false arrest, and other misconduct. But Guillot ultimately won his job back and was placed in a supervisory position overseeing the police academy.

The MCPBA says it has petitioned Colina to replace Guillot, to no avail. To date, Guillot has 58 charges of misconduct stemming from 32 citizen complaints.

"If you have someone who gets fired with this sort of background... why would you have him over our most impressionable minds in academy?" Carr asks. "When we talk about Chief Colina, this is one of those situations where he's failing as a leader."

Papier says Guillot was rehired following an independent arbitration process. "Since his promotion to the rank of lieutenant through the civil service process, he has not been subjected to additional discipline," the deputy chief asserts. ?

The MCPBA says in retrospect, city leaders should have conducted a nationwide search instead of moving so quickly to appoint Colina after Llanes announced his retirement.

"It starts to make you wonder: Did we really get the best man?" Jean-Poix says.

Both Jean-Poix and Carr say they expect blowback from Colina and city leaders. But the two MCPBA officers, each of whom is less than a decade away from retirement, say they felt compelled to address complaints from their members who have been distressed by poor working conditions for years.

"It's important," Jean-Poix says. "This is not the legacy we should leave."

Below are copies of MCPBA's letter regarding Colina and the response from Colina:
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Jessica Lipscomb is the former news editor of Miami New Times.