Miami-Dade Police Union President Ousted After 24 Years of Defending Bad Cops

Former Dade County Police Benevolent Association President John Rivera

For more than two decades, John Rivera was the ideal of what most cops think a police union president should be: He lied constantly, threw tantrums at even the slightest personal insult, and had zero qualms about blaming black kids for getting themselves shot by the officers he represented.

For 24 years, Rivera ran the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, the largest police union in town — a time period in which not a single on-duty officer was charged with shooting a civilian until 2017, in a case when Rivera was among the only public voices defending the officer, who shot a black man with his arms in the air.

Yesterday Rivera was voted out of running the union that represents 6,500 Miami-Dade police and correctional officers, losing to current PBA Vice President Steadman Stahl.

“The elections department has tabulated the ballots and the membership has spoken,” Rivera wrote from the official PBA Facebook account today, conceding the election. “The members have voted for change and I totally respect our system of democracy.”

Rivera was first elected to head the PBA in 1993, when he beat the incumbent union chief by only 68 votes. At the time, the then-37-year-old Rivera was a Miami-Dade Police sergeant working the midnight shift in the property section.

Almost immediately, he went to work to defeat a push by black and religious leaders to give more power to a civilian oversight group after a string of fatal police shootings. Rivera helped pack a commission meeting with cops wearing “Enough Is Enough” T-shirts and had the widows of three slain officers stand up as cops argued that more oversight would somehow kill more police officers.

“The present system is not defective. Don’t persecute us because of perceptions,” he told the Miami Herald at the time.

That first tussle set a template for Rivera for the next 24 years: No matter how apparently heinous a police shooting, he would be the first to loudly defend the cops. No matter how slight a proposed increase in oversight, he would push back with everything he had.

When Hialeah caught several officers napping on the job and decided to fire them in 1996, Rivera called the case politically motivated and insisted they weren’t bad cops. When the Miami Herald’s 1997 “Collars for Dollars” investigation revealed dozens of cops abusing overtime rules by frivolously listing one another as witnesses in DUI cases, Rivera insisted they had done nothing wrong and argued they were “caught between a rock and a hard place” by court rules.

Rivera earned the nickname “Iron John” as he steadfastly stood by disgraced allies — including Miami-Dade Commissioner Bruce Kaplan, who resigned in disgrace after getting caught in a mortgage fraud scheme. After another commissioner dared to criticize the union during a meeting, Rivera ordered his cops to go full CIA on the politician by digging up records of his phone calls, meetings, and messages from the previous month. Rivera was open about the move being a standard intimidation tactic that he had used on other enemies.

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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