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Sweetwater Police Department, Among Others, Is Magnet for Troubled Officers

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The Sarasota Herald-Tribune is going to give us cold sweats the next time we're driving through one of Miami-Dade County's small towns.

The daily paper -- which Sunday reported that Florida's statistically dirtiest cop is an Opa-locka officer -- continued its "Unfit for Duty" series today with an analysis of how fired police officers consistently find second or third chances in smaller police departments throughout the state.

Once again, some of the worst examples are in our county. Reporters Anthony Cormier and Matthew Doig uncovered that in four departments here -- Biscayne Park, Sweetwater, Opa-locka, and Hialeah Gardens -- a whopping 20 ercent of officers had at least one instance of potentially career-ending misconduct evaluated by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. That's about five times the statewide average and four times that of the Miami-Dade Police Department.

But just consider that data for a second. In those four departments, one out of five officers was found culpable of a fireable offense.

Sweetwater -- formerly a dwarf's paradise that just always creeped us out -- is particularly one of the state's worst offenders when it comes to hiring problem officers. The Herald-Tribune discovered that at least 12 cops there had incidents of misconduct (including a sex offense, cocaine possession, and indecent exposure) at other departments. Many of those cops came from the Miami-Dade and Miami departments.

Unsurprisingly, these police departments populated by rejects are also the most troubled.

Sweetwater has a history of coverups and brutality. A Hialeah Gardens officer was recently arrested for allegedly being a member of a burglary ring.

Opa-locka is under investigation for a laundry list of allegations, including officers trading sex with prisoners in return for freedom. New Times has reported on myriad problems -- including missing drugs from the evidence room and an officer behind the wheel in a hit-and-run -- at the Biscayne Park Department. We uncovered then that Capt. Antonio Sanchez was hired after being canned from both the Sweetwater and Hialeah Gardens departments.

Let's hope this Herald-Tribune series will cause some changes in a system that currently allows problem cops to keep their badges. In the meantime, we're going to stay well under the speed limit in the shitheels of South Florida.

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