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Exclusive: Fired Medley Officers Say They Were Wrongly Terminated By Police Chief

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(CBS4)

(CBS4)

Peter-D'oench-600x450 Peter D'Oench
Peter D'Oench is a reporter for CBS4 News. He came to CBS4 from ...
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South Florida Crime

MIAMI (CBS4) – For the first time, three officers who were fired by the town of Medley after a traffic accident that was captured on surveillance tape are speaking out, saying the town of Medley unfairly and wrongly terminated them.

“I don’t think it’s fair,” said former Officer Freddy Romero, 35, who was fired Sept. 27th along with former Sgt. George Perez, 51, and Lt. Joseph Olmedo, 44.

Perez had been with the department for 22 years. Olmedo, who had served as “Acting Chief,” had been with the department for 21 years.

In a CBS4 Exclusive, Romero told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, “My rights of due process were violated. I have my family and my house that I am worried about about. And I loved my job. This was not fair but the truth will prevail. Justice will win out.”

“I feel terrible,” said Perez. “I have been a police officer for 25 years and I have been in Medley 22 and a half years and I was never disciplined. This is awful for me and my family. I am not going to let go of this. We have our families.”

The incident was captured on surveillance tape on October 8th, 2011 as Leovigildo Bravo Fraga was driving to work, going southbound on Northwest 72nd Ave.  Suddenly, surveillance tape captures Romero’s car colliding with Fraga’s mini-van.

Fraga was initially arrested because he was driving with a suspended license, according to reports, and it appeared he was driving under the influence.

“He was given two roadside tests by officers and they thought he was impaired with alcohol,” said Perez. “It later turned out he was fatigue impaired from a lack of sleep. He had been working two jobs.”

Fraga was arrested and then later released. Police say he passed a breathalyzer test for alcohol after the accident.

A probe also showed that Romero was at fault during the accident, not Fraga, as originally believed and reported. Perez told D’Oench he filed that report based on the conditions of the accident.

Jose “Pepe” Herrera is the attorney for the officers and he told D’Oench that, “This gentleman had a suspended license. And that is an offense that you can be arrested for in the state of Florida. The fact that Sergeant Perez exercised discretion should not be faulted. This individual was impaired by fatigue.”

“Our position has been that we want a fair and impartial investigation, not one done by the Police Chief,” said Herrera. “This is absolutely a witch hunt that is self directed by the Chief of Police.”

Olmedo said, “Our due process rights have been violated. Never did I think in my 21 years that I would be terminated for a traffic crash report that was given to the Chief of Police to review. It is the Chief’s responsibility to review my work. I think someone outside the city should have conducted this investigation. I am going to fight this for all of my fellow officers and everyone who would fall under my command.”

Olmedo and the former officers say their rights were violated under the town charter because they say only the town council has the authority to fire them—not the Police Chief. Attorney Herrera told D’Oench he has successfully fought the city on three other occasions in which officers were wrongly fired by people other than the town council.

The former officers plan to attend the next town council meeting after the elections on December 6th. In the meantime, they are hoping a Judge will rule in their favor after Herrera filed an amended lawsuit against the town of Medley.

The Police Chief of Medley, Jeanette Said-Jinette, is also speaking for the first time and exclusively to CBS4.

She was only allowed by her attorney to read a statement.

In it, she said, “The town of Medley has no animosity towards these officers. They were terminated after an independent investigation was conducted by another City and based on the surveillance video which is not consistent with the reports (that were filed by the officers). The facts and the video speak for themselves. The only people to blame are the officers who breached the trust of the people of Medley and the state of Florida.”

She added, “Any other allegations are an attempt to divert attention from their behavior.”

On Monday, the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association President John Rivera that he was going to fight to get the officers’ jobs back.

“We are not only going to fight for that, we are going to get their jobs back,” said Rivera, whose PBA represents two of the officers.

He said the firings were based on a “flawed investigation.”

“And often I don’t agree with the State Attorney’s Office,” he said, “but they decided that there were no grounds for a criminal prosecution.”

He was referring to a close-out memo from prosecutors that said the case did involve some “sloppy police work” but did not merit criminal prosecution.

The former officers are also suing Medley in order to get a look at hundreds of pages of public records in this case.

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