State authorities are probing what could be the most significant police corruption in years in perpetually troubled Opa-locka.
According to city memos obtained by Miami New Times and confirmed by manager Clarance Patterson, officers have told internal investigators that city cops:
1. had sex with arrested offenders rather than prosecute them.
2. stole property from the station.
3. ordered lower ranking officers to release a person arrested and discard the report, which would violate state law.
4. bought liquor and then improperly transported it in police vehicles for private parties.
5. horsed around with Tasers on the job.
"If proven, this is serious business," says Patterson. "This wasn't something that happened yesterday, it has been happening over the course of years."
The allegations are the result of a month-long internal investigation of city cops that Patterson said he ordered in January after hearing complaints. He said many of the problems predate his tenure as manager, which started 15 months ago.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has found similar problems in the department in the past, according to a New Times story published in 2008. Opa-locka is one of the county's poorest cities. It has a long history of political corruption and discord.
According to city documents, Patterson ordered the survey of police January 27, and it was
completed in late February. The city's personnel director and an assistant city manager interviewed 11 members of the city's executive
staff and 6 cops.
They found exceedingly low morale and that complaints by officers had often not been followed up. "The department is built on deception," is even listed in the report's "comments" section. Many other comments refer to racially charged issues in the largely black department.
In March, Patterson suspended Opa-locka police chief Cheryl Cason, claiming she had failed to report a minor accident.
Patterson said he contacted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to report the findings and that agents -- after contacting county prosecutors -- had agreed Thursday to probe the city's department. Asked why no one was being fired, Patterson said: "It looks radical but these claims need to be proven...This happened over a period of years but there are allegations against officers who are still here."