Raimundo Atesiano — the former police chief of Biscayne Park, Florida — is headed to prison after being found guilty of framing young black men for burglaries.
“I made some very, very bad decisions,” Atesiano told the judge during his sentencing hearing.
Atesiano pleaded guilty in federal court in September to violating the civil rights of citizens while acting under color of law as Biscayne Park’s chief of police. A press release from the Department of Justice stated that Atesiano knew that the men being blamed for various burglaries were not guilty of those crimes, but did so in order to have an impeccable record for solving crimes.
When Atesiano took the job, he was determined to solve the city’s open burglary cases. The Miami Herald discovered records from an internal affairs investigation during Atesiano’s tenure in which former officers talked about how Atesiano encouraged them to find vulnerable young black men to frame for the unresolved burglaries.
“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 investigators in 2014, referring to orders he got from his superiors. “They were basically doing this to have a 100 percent clearance rate for the city.”
The framing of innocent black men worked, in terms of clearing the open case load of burglaries. In 2013, the department reported solving 100 percent of burglaries, and 90 percent of burglaries the following year. After Atesiano left the Biscayne Park Police Department, however, the department had a zero percent record in solving the 19 burglaries that occurred in 2015.
In addition to Atesiano, three officers who executed his orders also got prison time, with one officer getting two years and two other officers each getting one year apiece.
Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.