Biscayne Park, a suburb north of Miami, is at the center of a scandal over police corruption that has led to the indictment in federal court of former police chief Raimundo Atesiano and two officers, according to an exhaustive report from the Miami Herald.
They are charged with falsely accusing a teenager of four burglaries in order to improve the town’s crime stats. An investigation into the police department from 2014 included many more disturbing details of the department’s practices. The Herald writes:
Records obtained by the Miami Herald suggest that during the tenure of former chief Raimundo Atesiano, the command staff pressured some officers into targeting random black people to clear cases.
“If they have burglaries that are open cases that are not solved yet, if you see anybody black walking through our streets and they have somewhat of a record, arrest them so we can pin them for all the burglaries,” one cop, Anthony De La Torre, said in an internal probe ordered in 2014. “They were basically doing this to have a 100% clearance rate for the city.”
The town, which has a population of 3,000, is 17 percent black, according to the 2010 census. The corruption came to light through letters written by officers to the town’s leadership, describing a wide range of illegal and questionable behavior at the small department of about a dozen officers:
Beyond the apparent race targeting, the report [by a private investigator] — never reviewed in village commission meetings — described a department run like a dysfunctional frat house. It outlines allegations that the brass openly drank on duty, engaged in a host of financial shenanigans and that the No. 2 in command during the period, Capt. Lawrence Churchman, routinely spouted racist and sexist insults. [...]
“The captain has said on several different occasions he doesn’t want any n——-s, f——-s or women b——-s working at Biscayne Park,” Harrison said, according to Scott’s investigative report. [...]
[O]ver the last decade, the department has also seen an officer arrested on charges of holding his wife hostage, a troubled officer sued for excessive force and another officer charged with beating a suspect.
The federal case against Raimundo Atesiano and former officers alleges that they charged a 16-year-old black Haitian-American known as T.D. with four burglaries, despite sketchy to nonexistent evidence, in order to improve the town’s crime stats.
Atesiano certainly accomplished that. According to the Herald: “During his roughly two-year tenure as chief, 29 of 30 burglary cases were solved, including all 19 in 2013. In 2015, the year after he left, records show village cops did not clear a single one of 19 burglary cases.” Oops.
Atesiano resigned in 2014, only five days after the investigation of the department began. He was replaced by former Miami officer Luis Cabrera, who says he has overhauled the department completely. However, his deputy, Nicholas Wollschlager, was found by the investigation to have drank on duty and ordered questionable burglary arrests, and left the department amid the investigation. Cabrera told the Herald that he decided to rehire Wollschlager because he “was never a target or a subject,” but a “cooperating witness”.
You can read more about this horrifying saga in the Miami Herald’s detailed report.