In Biscayne Park, Florida — a suburb just north of Miami with a little over 3,000 residents — a former police chief once hatched an idea to impress local elected officials with a 100 percent success rate on solving crimes: Frame black people.
That’s according to court records obtained by the Miami Herald, in which former officers testified that former Biscayne Park chief Raimundo Atesiano instructed them to clear open cases by pinning crimes on black people with criminal records.
“If they have burglaries that are open cases that are not solved yet, if you see anybody black walking through our streets and they have somewhat of a record, arrest them so we can pin them for all the burglaries,” officer Anthony De La Torre told internal investigators in 2014, referring to orders he got from command staff. “They were basically doing this to have a 100% clearance rate for the city.”
The internal probe was launched after Biscayne Park village manager Heidi Shafran said she received numerous letters from officers who were fed up with the policy.
“The letters said police were doing a lot of bad things,” Shafran told the Miami Herald. “It said police officers were directed to pick up people of color and blame the crimes on them.”
Prior to Chief Atesiano’s sudden resignation in 2014 during the course of the probe, the department’s record of solving crimes was indeed impeccable. Over his two-year tenure, the small staff of the Biscayne Park Police Department had a 100 percent record in solving burglary cases in 2013, and solved 10 of 11 burglaries the following year. In 2015, after Atesiano departed, police had a zero percent record of solving burglaries out of a total of 19 cases, according to the Herald.
For his part, Chief Atesiano pleaded not guilty to charges in a federal case in which he and two other officers were accused of framing a 16-year-old Haitian American boy for four unsolved burglaries, and is standing trial for violating the boy’s civil rights. Out of 30 burglary arrests in 2013 and 2014, the Herald reported that nearly all of the defendants were black males. However, Richard Docobo, Atesiano’s defense attorney, said the accusation that his client told officers to frame people for crimes they didn’t commit is false.
“Encouraging, or even demanding, that public employees raise their performance levels to meet the citizens’ expectations is not an invitation for those public employees to cut corners or falsify documents,” Docobo told the paper.
Grit Post’s calls to a cell number registered to Atesiano were not returned as of this writing.
Scott Alden is a freelance contributor covering national politics, education, and environmental issues. He is a proud Toledo University graduate, and lives in the suburbs of Detroit.