MIAMI – Miami’s most powerful police couple, Deputy Chief Ronald Papier and Little Havana Comdr. Nerly Papier, are fighting to get their jobs back just as Miami Chief Art Acevedo is protecting his.
Attorney Robert Harris said surveillance video shows Nerly Papier when she was on her way to work on the morning of April 2. She was driving her police-issued sports utility vehicle.
Harris said she swerved to avoid crashing into a black SUV that veered into her lane and in doing so jumped the curb. With two flat tires, Harris said she decided to run a red light.
“She knew that she had a flat tire. She was three blocks away from the police station at that time. She wanted to get the vehicle off the road,” said Harris, who is representing the Papiers.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez brought Acevedo to establish reform and welcomed him as “the Michael Jordan of police chiefs.” Acevedo was sworn in as the Miami Police Department’s 42nd police chief on April 5.
It’s unclear how the incident in the video became the subject of an investigation. Pending the results of an internal affairs investigation, the Papiers were relieved of duty with pay on April 23.
An investigation by the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office found no wrongdoing. Internal Affairs investigators recommended termination alleging omitted facts and administrative mishandling.
On June 3rd, Acevedo ordered an internal affairs investigation after an alleged breach of operational security involving Luis Camacho, a sergeant-at-arms tasked with protecting Suarez and commissioners.
Miami City Manager Art Noriega approved firings the Papiers on June 22 — even though Ronald Papier had served as the interim chief after Chief Jorge Colina retired and was a top candidate to replace him.
It took a little over five months on the job, for Acevedo to write an 8-page memo on Sept. 24 to Suarez and Noriega accusing Miami Commissioners Joe Carollo, Alex Diaz de la Portilla, and Manolo Reyes of trying to interfere with the internal affairs investigation on Camacho.
Acevedo reported the three commissioners’ public discussion on the internal affairs investigation on Camacho during a June 24 meeting serve as evidence of their “improper efforts” and “unlawful and retaliatory conduct” to influence the investigation and reverse personnel decisions.
Investigators recommended Camacho’s termination and Acevedo and Noriega agreed despite protest from the three commissioners.
“In a career spanning over 35 years, including in the three of the most populous states ... and leading three of the largest law enforcement agencies ... I have never personally experienced such interference,” Acevedo wrote in the memo, adding he also “uncovered a pattern of unlawful use of force by officers” and a lack of accountability.
Acevedo wrote he asked Department of Justice officials to review internal affairs processes and several non-fatal use of force incidents. He also wrote that after the arrest of Frank Pichel, a mayoral candidate and former police officer, he was going to request help from the FBI.
Commissioners control the police department’s budget. Acevedo claimed their cuts affected his plan for reform. Commissioners reacted to his memo during public meetings on Sept. 27 and Oct. 1. Carollo asked Noriega to investigate damage to Acevedo’s unmarked car. Noriega tweeted his conclusion.
“I welcome the Civilian Investigative Panel review. It is very unfortunate that this seems to be another attempt by the Fraternal Order of Police to baselessly undermine our Police Chief,” Noriega said.
While Acevedo doesn’t have the support of the Miami chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, he still counts on the support of The Miami Community Police Benevolent Association.
Acevedo is under a gag order. Miami City Attorney Victoria Méndez said she is not aware of federal authorities’ involvement in the matter.
Read Acevedo’s memo