MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The U.S. Attorney’s Office held a press conference Tuesday afternoon to announce federal narcotics charges against three City of Miami police officers.
The investigation started when Miami police received complaints that the officers were dirty. The City of Miami Police Department launched its own probe and brought in the FBI. As part of the undercover operation, the officers believed they were being hired to help the “traffickers” move cocaine.
Investigators identified the officers as Schonton Harris, Kelvin Harris and James Archibald.
U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida Ariana Fajardo Orshan, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Special Agent in Charge Robert Lasky, and City of Miami Police Department Chief Jorge Colina were in attendance during the announcement.
“Sometimes there is bad seed in law enforcement. Those officers who dish or their bad and who and endanger the public will be called to answer for the crimes they commit,” said Fajardo Orshan.
Fajardo Orshan said Schonton sold a Miami Police uniform and badge to an undercover agent in exchange for $1,500.
The US attorney said veteran officer Kelvin Harris and officer James Archibald were recruited by officer Schonton Harris. They reportedly took payments to protect individuals involved with money laundering and narcotics trafficking.
Schonton was paid $17,000, while Kelvin Harris earned $10,000 and Archibald made $6,500, Fajardo Orshan said.
“Instead of ridding the streets of drugs which are ravaging our communities these officers were willing to profit from money laundering and drug trafficking enterprises. They were willing to work as armed escorts for drug traffickers that lead to the transportation of cocaine,” Fajardo Orshan added.
The FBI said the people the officers thought were drug dealers were actually undercover agents.
Officials said the investigation lasted several months and it started with a single person coming forward to make a complaint.
“The message is two-fold. The public can trust us to do the right thing. That’s how this was initiated. Someone came forward,” Colina said.
“If anyone believes they can work here and wear the uniform and break the law and get away with it, that’s not the case. We will out you, we will find you out and you will be held accountable.”
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench that “It’s important to send a message and the Police Chief sent that loud and clearly today that we are going to hold them responsible when there is unlawful activity affecting the lives of our residents.”
In one case, the officers reportedly agreed to protect a shipment of two thousand opioid pills.
Charges include conspiracy to possess cocaine with the intent to distribute.
Kelvin Harris’ father spoke briefly with CBS4’s Hank Tester, saying only “I Have No Comment. I Do Not Know About It Myself.”
The police chief said the officers will be fired.