Panel Probes Miami PD's Secret "Sub-Stations"

If you’re ever busted by City of Miami cops and you hear the words “mini-station” or “sub-station,” kick out the squad car window and run down the street as fast as your little legs can carry you.

After an exhaustive two-year investigation, the Citizens Investigative Panel has concluded that there are a number of underground back rooms being used by the MPD as “mini-stations.”

According to Charles C. Mays, a lawyer for the Civilian organization, they are still discovering them. “At a meeting with the department, one of our employees mentioned that there were a number of sub-stations in Allapattah.” Everyone in the room was surprised to hear it.

The reason they were so shocked, according to Mays, is that the Miami Police Department has maintained that there are no such things.

The investigation began in 2004. Arrestees all over the city were being taken to these odd places (among them: the office of a liquor store, the back room in a gas station, an abandoned apartment in the Design Place) usually demarcated by rather unofficial-looking signs calling them “mini-stations.” Some compliantants claimed they had been beaten, others were just mad that they had been made to sit around.

Internal Affairs cleared the officers of all of the charges –in some cases, the complainants lacked witnesses; in others, they refused to continue pursuing the matter years after they had been allegedly wronged.

The cases were handed to the Civilian Investigative Panel, which began its own inquiry. In October of 2006, the panel voted that all of the locations be published and distributed. It also demanded that the MPD explain what the deal was with these pseudo-stations. In December of the same year, a letter was to Chief John Timoney making these demands clear.

Timoney responded that he could not provide them what they requested. “There are no mini-stations,” he wrote. “And, consequently there are no orders addressing the same.”

The panel found its own private investigator, who produced photographs of signs detailing police stations at three Miami locations. Sub-station at Design Place had since been vacated, but traces of a sign remained on an apartment door. The property manager explained that he had requested the station be established six months ago and it was occupied, rent free, by officers working in the area.

The second location was a Pollo Tropical on Biscayne Boulevard just south of 36th street. The manager there, Mr. Carlos Hernandez, said he didn’t know anything about the details of the substation, but two signs bearing City of Miami Police Logos decalred it as such.

A third location was found at a Food Mart on 3135 Grand Avenue, where a room in the back had been shared by local cops and the owner, Firas Hussain, since 1995.

The Miami Police Department, through one of its attorneys, has tacitly acknowledged that such things exist. According to Mays, however, they have not admitted officially sanctioning them.

“Look,” he explained. “We’re not saying they’re bad. They could be a really good thing. Increasing police presence, providing officers a place to conduct paperwork and not force them to be commuting back to their station when they could be out policing. However: what are the rules governing these places? How would you feel being taken to a room you’ve never seen before and don’t see any supervisors walking around…We want to make sure that prisoners are not being held in a spot that [Timoney] won’t admit exists.” --Calvin Godfrey

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Frank Houston

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