9 Miami Police Officer Fired In Last 3 Years But They All Got Their Jobs Back


Over the past three years, nine Miami police officers have been fired — accused of everything from unjustly shooting a suspect to sleeping on the job to firing a gun in a drunken rage while off-duty.

All but one of them have gotten their jobs back through an automatic review process called arbitration.

The latest officer dismissed, Adrian Rodriguez, is being investigated for his suspected role in a decade-old robbery and murder. Nonetheless, an arbitrator last month ordered him returned to the job.

Fed up with the string of losses in police arbitration hearings, city officials are now planning to ask a Miami-Dade judge to overturn the Rodriguez decision, a step they haven’t pursued in previous cases. It’s rarely a successful legal tactic but one the police brass argues is forced by the prospect of allowing a suspect in a murder case to return to active duty.

“This is a case we have to appeal,” Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes told the Miami Herald. “Adrian cannot return to the streets as a police officer.”

Rodriguez’s union-appointed lawyer, Eugene Gibbons, called any appeal “frivolous” and bound to fail. Arbitrators are agreed upon by lawyers on both sides, he said.

“The arbitrator was hired to do exactly what he did. They’re just not happy with the result,” Gibbons said. “It’s a stall tactic. They don’t want Adrian to go back to work.”

Rodriguez’s case underscores the difficulty in firing police officers who have not been charged for any crimes – and the city’s woeful track record in making them stick. Only once in nine challenges has an arbitrator upheld a police-officer firing in the last three years.

Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes, pictured here at a May 2017 press conference, says the city will appeal an arbitrator’s decision to reverse the firing of a cop being investigated for a homicide.
C.M. Guerrero Miami Herald

As for the eight officers awarded their jobs back, all save one are back on the force. He wound up resigning, even after winning in arbitration.

Under the city’s collective-bargaining agreements with various workforce unions, any permanent employee who has been disciplined is entitled to an arbitration hearing. The decisions by the arbitrators, who are specially trained lawyers, are generally binding under Florida law.

Heard by state circuit judges, appeals are rarely successful because Florida law restricts the reasons why an arbitration decision can be reversed. Those include proving misconduct, fraud or partiality by an arbitrator — not necessarily the merit of the decision or interpretation of the facts.

“Arbitration awards have a high degree of finality to them,” said Miami labor lawyer Teri Guttman Valdes, who handles police firing cases but is not involved in Rodriguez’s case. “There are very limited means by which you can seek to vacate them.”

Controversial arbitration agreements involving police officers are not new. They happen in municipalities across South Florida.

Miami Beach Sgt. Michael Muley was caught drinking while in uniform on South Beach, but was given his job back last year through arbitration. Two years earlier, a Miami Beach cop who blamed his positive drug test on a cocaine-infused erectile dysfunction cream got his job back through arbitration.

Across the causeway, the city of Miami has been more aggressive about terminating employees for misconduct in recent years, and that has meant more arbitration hearings. A tenth officer who was fired pursued a different legal route and also was awarded his job back by a circuit court judge.

Attorney Gibbons, appointed through the Fraternal Order of Police, said the city is trying to “bully us around.” The FOP president, Javier Ortiz, said: “When the city puts in effective leadership to handle these cases, they might actually win. Many of their actions are personal, which is why the FOP wins 98 percent of the time.”

Arbitration also has benefited employees outside the police department since 2015. At least three other employees have gotten their jobs back, including a public works employee fired after she missed three days of work for threatening a coworker with a baseball bat.

As for police, most famously, Miami Police Officer Reynaldo Goyos in 2014 got his job back for a controversial fatal police shooting of an unarmed motorist following a traffic stop. Though Goyos was cleared criminally under Florida law, the department fired him after a firearms review board ruled the shooting “unjustified.” But an arbitrator ruled in his favor. Goyos returned to the force.

As for Rodriguez, homicides detectives have been investigating his role in the 2007 murder of a cell-phone store manager, a killing that happened shortly before Rodriguez became a cop. The story was first reported by the Miami Herald.

Rodriguez was an employee at the MetroPCS store when gunmen shot and killed his colleague, Yosbel Millares, in the parking lot in robbery gone wrong. Rodriguez was interviewed the day of the murder, but was not suspected of playing a role at the time.

For the full story visit : http://www.miamiherald.com/news/local/crime/article155412784.html#storylink=cpy