MENU

Reason.com

Free Minds & Free Markets

Florida Police Chief Charged with Arresting Random Black Men to Improve His Department's Record

Former Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano is accused of arrested black men for burglaries to boost the department's image.

|||Jay Weaver/TNS/NewscomJay Weaver/TNS/NewscomAn investigation into a false arrest has uncovered a former Florida police chief's scheme to boost his department's clearance rate by arresting innocent people.

The authorities are charging former Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano and two officers, Charlie Dayoub and Raul Fernandez, with conspiracy to violate civil rights. According to the U.S. Department of Justice, Atesiano's department arrested a 16-year-old citizen for a series of burglaries, without evidence, all "to maintain a fictitious 100 percent clearance rate of reported burglaries." If convicted, the trio faces a maximum sentence of 11 years in prison.

At least one other arrest is now being investigated as well. In 2014, Erasmus Banmah, 35, was charged with five vehicle burglaries in one day. Those charges were dropped after police did not cooperate with prosecutors.

Former Biscayne Park village manager Heidi Shafran ordered an internal probe of the department in 2014 in response to allegations about the department's racial bias. The probe's results, published in the Miami Herald last week, indicate that Atesiano directed his officers to pin crimes on random black men to boost the department's clearance rate. As Officer Anthony De La Torre described the method to an investigator, "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." De La Torre said the tactic was used so the department would have "a 100% clearance rate for the city."

As reported:

During [Atesiano's] roughly two-year tenure as chief, 29 of 30 burglary cases were solved, including all 19 in 2013. In 2015, the year after he left, records show village cops did not clear a single one of 19 burglary cases.

Arrest records also reportedly show that black males were arrested in nearly all of the 30 burglary cases in 2013 and 2014.

The probe contained similar accusations from four officers about arresting innocent residents, though De La Torre was the only officer to mention a racial aspect to the scheme. The officers, who make up a third of the force, said the instructions came from the top down. The report concluded that the department was run like a frat house.

In another part of the report, Officer Thomas Harrison accused former Captain Lawrence Churchman of using homophobic, racist, and sexist language in the workplace. At one point, Churchman allegedly said he didn't want "any niggers, faggots, or women bitches working at Biscayne Park." Churchman was suspended alongside Cpl. Nicholas Wollschlager, who was also accused of ordering suspicious burglary arrests and of drinking on the job. (Wollschlager was later rehired.)

Atesiano stepped down in 2014, just days after Shafran told him to cooperate fully with the investigation. The department is now being run by a new chief, Luis Cabrera, who has made an effort to show transparency by auditing the evidence room.

Photo Credit: |||Jay Weaver/TNS/Newscom

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    As far as villainous police chiefs go, he's almost too perfect.

  • Don't look at me.||

    I wonder if he had oversized mirrored sunglasses?

  • BambiB||

    I've often proposed that when someone makes a knowingly false accusation of a crime they should be subject to the maximum penalty that the accused could have received if convicted. I usually express this sentiment in the context of false rape accusations - but it should also apply to police officers. If they arrest someone without any indication that the arrested person is guilty, the police officers should serve the maximum sentence to which the accused might have been subject.

    I also think law enforcement, when convicted, should have their penalties doubled based purely on the fact that their role is not only to enforce the law, but to set an example.

    So in this case, if burglary is a 5-10 year offense, I'd say the cops involved should get 20 years. Mandatory. No parole.

  • Dadlobby||

    OK, where was the DA's office? I would think being handed a case without evidence would be a bit of a clue that things were a but flaky at the PD and worthy of reporting, or investigating it yourself.

  • Citizen X||

    The DA and the police are on the same team, and have the exact same incentive to get those convictions (lack of evidence or actual innocence are largely irrelevant).

  • Robert||

    Namely, no incentive at all, right? They don't get a commission.

  • D-Pizzle||

    Just because they don't get a "commission" does not mean that prosecutors are not incentivized. They are evaluated by measures such as number of convictions and conviction rates in evaluations for future promotions, as well as the opportunities that having strong numbers in these areas provides for political advancement.

  • Number 2||

    You are assuming that the DA actually looks at the file. I know of at least one case in which the DA put a cop on the stand and had him testify that he had obtained a suspect's consent to be searched, even though the cop's Voice recording made it very clear that the suspect refused to consent, but the cop searched anyway. The voice recording was part of the case file but the assistant DA handling the case didn't bother to check it out before putting the cop on the stand. Unfortunately for them, the defense counsel did look at the case file and tour the cop to shreds on cross-examination.

  • Number 2||

    Tore, not tour.

  • BLPoG||

    "The report concluded that the department was run like a frat house."

    That seems unfair to fraternities.

  • SQRLSY One||

    GOP copsuckers approve of this kind of behavior!

  • Rossami||

    Interesting charge. Please explain to us, though, why it's relevant in this particular case given that:
    a) the police chief of Biscayne Park is apparently a position appointed by the Mayor
    b) the mayor and, from what I can tell, all three of the City Commissioners are registered Democrats. (The vice-mayor has a common name such that I could not confirm his political affiliation.)

  • SQRLSY One||

    Well OK then, thanks for the extra facts!

    When I see a "back the blue" bumper sticker, or hear "blue lives matter", I am quicker to think, "GOP affiliated" than I am to think "Democrat affiliated", though. Am I wrong in thinking this way?

  • Rossami||

    Short answer - yes.

    Longer answer - Both parties pander to police. If you look at city governments completely controlled by Democrats, their record of civil rights abuses by police are no better than the records in GOP-controlled jurisdictions.

    If you believe the stereotypes, the GOP pander to police because "law and order" and the Democrats do so because of the police union. But digging past the stereotypes, both parties are primarily about power and control. The pockets of idealists (who do exist in both parties) are far too small to overcome the majority's self-interest in getting reelected.

    So, yeah - if you see a "blue lives matter" bumper sticker, it's no better than a coin-flip whether the owner's other beliefs are more D than R.

  • Longtobefree||

    If you hear hoofbeats, expect horses, not zebras.

  • D-Pizzle||

    In my experience, leftists are more likely to trust the police than those on the right. In Massachusetts and RI, where I live, the police, in 2018, do not generally use dashboard cameras or other such objective recording methods. In red states, they have more broadly been using these for decades. I also believe, though I could be wrong, that blue states are more likely to criminalize the video or audio recording of the police in their performance of their duties than are red states. I believe that this is all by design given the more statist dispositions of the potential jury members in more left-leaning places.

  • Cy||

    Where's our daily "Open borders are great you fucking racists!" article?

  • perlchpr||

    Just wait, it's early still.

  • Enjoy Every Sandwich||

    That's government for ya!

    Yes, the police are part of the government. The pointy part.

  • Mr. Dyslexic||

    The pointy part that has automatic weapons and MRAPS.

  • Just Say'n||

    Good thing it was a random black man, otherwise we'd never hear about this story

  • Jerryskids||

    Former Biscayne Park village manager Heidi Shafran ordered an internal probe of the department in 2014 in response to allegations about the department's racial bias. The probe's results, published in the Miami Herald last week...

    Is the Miami Herald that slow to publish old news or did the investigation really take that long? Who was conducting this probe that it took so long?

  • Citizen X||

    At one point, Churchman allegedly said he didn't want "any niggers, faggots, or women bitches working at Biscayne Park."

    Men bitches were okay, though.

  • Shirley Knott||

    I suspect in the eyes of Churchman that's covered under "faggots."

  • Citizen X||

    If you were to ask me what a "man bitch" was, i'd probably describe something very similar to former Captain Lawrence Churchman, actually.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Wow, OK then, since you broke out the N-word, arguably the most taboo word in American English today, in the quote, I guess I can use it too...

    15 to 20 years ago, travelling, I made brief but good friends with an EMT who worked closely with police in a big city in a deep-red state; it might have been Dallas. The cops couldn't be making radio calls or having discussions with each other (that might get over-heard), and call them "niggers"... So instead, they called them (in code) "Democrats"! Pretty funny, I thought at the time!

    But yes, the ugliness and injustice of the racism involved here is undeniable, and, of course, "Sad!", but I wonder if The Donald will Twit His Twat about this, and call it "Sad!"

    (Probably not; the GOP & Trump regards it as "whatever it takes to support the cops in cleaning up the streets" Sad indeed!)

  • Earth Skeptic||

    Well, that's what the Democratic Party calls them.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    The authorities are charging former Biscayne Park Police Chief Raimundo Atesiano and two officers, Charlie Dayoub and Raul Fernandez,

    I'm having trouble figuring out who the damned aggrieved minorities are. I guess we'll have to wait 5 years or so when everyone is reinstated with back pay after arbitration.

  • Tony Openshirt||

    Nailed it ^

  • JBSparks||

    If found guilty make an example of him. Virtually the rest of America is leading the world in a post racist humanity. Let's weed out these last few slow learners.

  • SRoach||

    The maximum sentence should be the sum of all the maximum sentences of all the people falsely arrested on burglary charges, presumably all thirty.
    Whatever the maximum sentence is for burglary, multiply that by thirty, and THAT should be the maximum sentence faced by this piece of vaguely man-shaped excrement.

    That should be the case in all cases of false arrest and courtroom misconduct. The cop, and the prosecutor, should face the sentence faced by the person they were railroading.
    Also, there should be no statute of limitations on this. Especially if the victim died while in prison, from old age or any other reason.

  • Necron 99||

    Florida Police Chief Charged with Arresting Random Black Men to Improve His Department's Record

    What is the record?

  • Robert||

    Why do they care about their clearance rate? Don't they get paid regardless? OK, we'll take the report your insurer insists on; next!

  • An Owl Named Dur||

    "Wollschlager, who was also accused of ordering suspicious burglary arrests and of drinking on the job. (Wollschlager was later rehired.)"

    Of course he was.

  • John C. Randolph||

    11 years is dismally insufficient for this crime.

    -jcr

  • Ben of Houston||

    For willful miscarriage of justice by government officials? Anything short of execution is too lenient.

  • Harold||

    A police chief who knows a sure thing when he sees it???

  • Mark22||

    One "poor oppressed minority" preying on another. It must be due to structural racism and white male privilege!

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online