A former police chief in Florida did the unthinkable to impress village residents with a perfect crime-solving record, going so far as to pressure his officers to target random Black folks and pin them with crimes.
Former Biscayne Park police chief Raimundo Atesiano and two of his officers were recently charged for framing a 16-year-old with a string of burglaries in the suburban community, The Miami Herald reported. This was seemingly not the exception but the rule during Atesiano’s tenure, as a new investigation revealed some officers were pressured to pin crimes on Black people for the sake of clearing cases.
“… 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,” one policeman, Anthony De La Torre, said in an internal investigation ordered back in 2014. “They were basically doing this to have a 100 percent clearance rate for the city.”
In documents from the probe, four officers told investigators they were ordered to file the false charges to improve the department’s crime stats, according to the newspaper. De La Torre was the only officer to mention specifically targeting Black Americans but a string of letters from aggrieved officers painted a clear picture for local leaders.
“The letters said police were doing a lot of bad things,” said former Biscayne Park village manager Heidi Shafran, who ordered the investigation. “It said police officers were directed to pick up people of color and blame the crimes on them.”
Atesiano abruptly resigned in 2014 in the midst of the probe, prompting a stark shift in the community’s near perfect crime-clearing records. The department went from solving 29 of 30 burglary cases during Atesiano’s two-year tenure to clearing not one of the 19 burglary cases after he left.
The former police chief has denied the allegations against him and pleaded not guilty in the federal case, the Miami Herald reported. He now awaits trial on charges of civil-rights violations of the 16-year-old. Two of his former officers, Charlie Dayoub and Raul Fernandez, have also pleaded not guilty.