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Three officers in the small town of Biscayne Park, Florida, go to trial later this month for allegations of pinning crimes on innocent residents who are black.
The Miami Herald reported Thursday that it obtained records suggesting former police chief Raimundo Atesiano and other commanding officers pressured officers into arresting people who are black in order to better crime statistics for the town.
“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 said in a 2014 internal probe. “They were basically doing this to have a 100 percent clearance rate for the city.”
While De La Torre was the only officer to mention race, three other officers in the small force reported to an outside investigator the orders for the false charges.
Atesiano resigned in 2014, after which crime stats dramatically changed in the town. For the roughly two years he was chief, 29 of 30 burglary cases were solved. The year after he left, local cops did not clear any burglary charges.
The former chief denied the civil rights violation charges faced against him. He pleaded not guilty in a federal case assessing the situation. Officers Raul Fernandez and Charlie Dayoub are also named in the probe and are awaiting trial.
“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,” Atesiano's defense attorney, Richard Docobo, told the Miami Herald.
Since the probe into the police department in 2014, the Biscayne Park force changed leadership with hopes of reviving its reputation. Former Miami police officer Luis Cabrera was hired in June as the new police chief. He says he's made changes to the running of the office and ordered civil rights training for officers.