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Miami’s Top Cop Suspended, May Be Fired

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(Photo Credit: CBS4) Miami Police chief Miguel Exposito was suspended on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011.

(Photo Credit: CBS4) Miami Police chief Miguel Exposito was suspended on Tuesday, Sept. 6, 2011.

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Miguel Exposito

MIAMI (CBS4) – Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito has been suspended with pay from his position. In a Tuesday morning meeting with City Manager Johnny Martinez that lasted less than 12 minutes, Exposito was suspended, according to Exposito’s attorney Ruben Chavez.

“Effective immediately, you are suspended from your position as Chief of Police,” the memo from Martinez to Exposito began. “I have taken this action because you have failed to obey my orders and have taken other actions that indicate just and reasonable cause to demonstrate that you cannot properly perform your duties as the Chief of Police,” stated the memo.

The City Manager cited two specific actions for the suspension.

The first involved an issue that took place last month when Martinez refused to give Exposito permission to demote three high-ranking police staffers. Martinez asked for more information before signing off on the move. Exposito nevertheless stripped the officers of their authority by reassigning them to desk jobs.

The memo also stated the second reason.

“You have continued to disregard my request about reducing overtime expenses by organizational restructuring,” stated Martinez in the memo.

Suspension Memo – Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito

“During the time of your suspension, you may not issue any commands, orders or directives, remove or destroy any records, materials or equipment from the City of Miami. You may not use any city equipment, enter the premises of any city of Miami facilities or exercise direction or control in any way over the police force of the City of Miami and its members,” stated the memo.

For Miami commissioner Marc Sarnoff, this latest embarrassing episode only cements the impression of chaos and incompetence in the City of Miami.

“This is a public dispute that has to come to an end. It’s not good for anybody in the City of Miami, it’s not good for the residents, it doesn’t instill confidence in them,” said Sarnoff.

The City Charter mandates the city manager to first suspend the chief before attempting to fire him. Now that he’s been suspended, Exposito has five days to appeal the suspension to the City of Miami Commission. The Commission will then vote to re-instate him or uphold the manager’s decision to remove him.

Sarnoff said he hopes cooler heads will prevail and that the Chief can remain.

“Have you ever heard the words ‘I’m sorry or I was wrong’,” said Sarnoff. “Apparently no one in the City of Miami has ever heard that. They simply need to back down a little bit and both men could do that and especially the mayor, he’s the duly elected official.”

The City Commission could take up the issue as early as Friday.

Over the weekend, Exposito sent a letter to Martinez demanding protection as a whistleblower. According to CBS4 News partner The Miami Herald, a 2-page letter was sent to Martinez Tuesday, with Exposito claiming he has been targeted by Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado since December 29th, 2010, after he wrote a letter to the feds claiming the Mayor had interfered with a gambling machine investigation.

Regalado believes the slots-like video machines, known as maquinitas, are legal under a city ordinance passed with his support. Exposito believes they are illegal gambling devices, and has raided businesses where the machines are in use. The difference has locked the two men in a bitter battle.

“I can claim I have been unfairly targeted by him since December,” Mayor Regalado told The Herald. “I don’t understand why he’s doing this now. He does this when he feels his job is endangered.”

Exposito has been with the department since 1974 and chief since November 2009.

With the suspension of Exposito, the acting police chief is Major Manuel Orosa. He’s a 31-year veteran of the police department and most senior member of the department staff.

If the commission upholds Martinez’ decision to remove Exposito, the city manager said he will conduct a national search for a replacement.

Major Orosa is connected to one of the department’s most infamous incidents, the beating death of Wynwood drug dealer Leonardo “Cano” Mercado and the Wynwood riots.  Orosa was the sergeant of the street narcotics unit whose six officers were charged with then later acquitted of Mercado’s death.  In 1990, Wynwood exploded with violence after the acquittal of those six Miami police officers.  Orosa was never charged with a crime.

(©2011 CBS Local Media, a division of CBS Radio Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. CBS4 news partner The Miami Herald contributed material for this report.)

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