The University of Miami Won't Turn Over Potential Cop-Misconduct Documents

The University of Miami — allegedly an upstanding institution that's supposed to teach students right from wrong — is refusing to voluntarily hand Miami's police-oversight board some payroll documents tied to the single most controversial cop in town: perennial troublemaker and Miami Police Capt. Javier Ortiz. In June, Miami's Civilian Oversight Panel (CIP) received an anonymous tip that Ortiz was allegedly receiving too large of an overtime salary while working an outside security job with the university. July 2, the CIP asked UM for any payroll records it might have on Ortiz, and the school staggeringly responded by saying it wouldn't turn anything over without a court order.

So the CIP, a group of local residents and activists that investigates complaints against Miami cops, voted last week to subpoena the university. Now it's up to a Miami-Dade Circuit Court judge to decide whether the CIP has a legal right to demand records from UM, whose main administrative center is located in Coral Gables, outside Miami city limits.

Multiple spokespeople for the university did not respond to messages from New Times today. But Ortiz — the police department's former union boss who has climbed the ranks and evaded punishment despite facing a smorgasbord of use-of-force, perjury, harassment, racism, and other misconduct complaints in the past — is yet again in some potential hot water after a tipster alerted the CIP that Ortiz might be "double-dipping" and receiving an off-duty salary from UM that flouts departmental rules. (As the former union boss, Ortiz infamously once called the dead 12-year-old Tamir Rice a "thug," nearly lost his job after harassing a private citizen online, and, as of 2018, racked up 38 citizen complaints related to 56 alleged cases of misconduct.)

According to documents obtained by New Times, an anonymous complainant June 26 sent the CIP four allegations against Ortiz, including claims he might be making too much money while working for UM.

There is certainly no doubt Ortiz at one point worked for the university. In October 2017, he was working an off-duty detail at the UM medical campus when he witnessed an allegedly armed carjacker, Ernesto Padron-Romero, speed by. According to publicly available records released by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office, Ortiz, while off-duty, used his police radio to advise he'd seen Padron-Romero and then "intercepted" him and chased his car until the alleged carjacker bailed out and jumped into the Miami River. A slew of other officers arrived in boats, surrounded Padron-Romero, and eventually shot him to death after he refused to drop a weapon, police said.

In June, the anonymous complainant asked the CIP to look into whether Ortiz abandoned his post at UM by chasing Padron-Romero's car and also requested that the panel investigate whether Ortiz was drawing a salary from both UM and the police department that day, which would be a violation of police rules. But the CIP has apparently been unable to obtain any records from UM for more than a month. The complainant also asked the CIP to look into why Ortiz was seemingly not punished for accepting too much off-duty work while other cops have been whacked for the same thing.

So, on August 20, all nine members of the CIP voted to subpoena UM to obtain Ortiz's employment records. CIP lawyers filed documents in court late last week.

"On July 2, 2019, the CIP formally requested documents from the University of Miami that were pertinent to this investigation," the legal complaint reads. "The University of Miami would not respond to this request absent a subpoena. These documents are necessary for the CIP to execute its lawful responsibility to examine the complaint, and the denial of such documents prejudices the CIP's function and duty as an investigative panel."
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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.