A Black Miami police sergeant is calling for a Hispanic police aide to be fired for allegedly telling the woman’s lawyer that she “looks like a monkey.”
An attorney for Miami-Dade Schools Police Sgt. Tracy Moore got Pablo Espinoza to admit to making the derogatory remark during a court hearing, according to the Miami Herald.
He later emailed a complaint to police officials, the newspaper reported.
“My client and I are very upset about this,” attorney Michael Catalano reportedly wrote in the email. “How would he even think to say that? My client wants PSA Espinosa fired immediately.”
When asked about the racial slur Monday, Espinoza told the Herald, “I can’t talk to you, bro. You know that.”
David Ovalle, a reporter with the Herald, tweeted Monday that Espinoza, a longtime public service aide with the Miami-Dade Police Department, is a “well-known figure” in local criminal justice circles and frequently testifies at drivers license and DUI hearings.
At the time of the incident in question, he was in charge of maintaining breath-test machines used to identify drunk drivers.
He is accused of making the derogatory remark before a Sept. 4 administrative hearing at a Florida Department of Motor Vehicles office in West Miami-Dade, the Herald reported.
The hearing was related to a drunk driving charge Moore faced in July. Catalano, who’s fighting the charge, is contending results from a breath test Moore was administered were skewed because the woman had recently undergone gastric bypass surgery, the Herald reported.
Moore had been sitting in a waiting area for the hearing when Espinoza allegedly grabbed Catalano by the shoulder as he was walking into the hearing room and told him: “Your client looks like a monkey sitting there.”
“I was shocked,” the attorney told the Miami Herald. “Nobody talks like that in 2019.”
Catalano later told Moore, who was upset, and he sent Espinoza a text message to get him to admit to the slur in writing, the Herald reported.
“Pablo. You have 2 hours to [apologize] for saying my [client] looks like a monkey or I report it to the director,” Catalano reportedly wrote in the text message. “I was disgusted by that and they have video in the hallway. Apologize and we drop it.”
Espinoza reportedly replied: “I’m apologizing. Done.”
But instead of dropping it, Catalano again got Espinoza to acknowledge he’d made the comment, this time during an Oct. 7 deposition in the criminal case, the Herald reported.
Catalano then emailed a complaint to Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez and to the schools’ police chief the next day, the Herald confirmed.
Epinoza was reassigned to “administration duties” while police investigate the incident, a department spokesman told the Herald.
“The Miami-Dade Police Department takes all complaints seriously and are committed to the highest performance standards and ethical conduct,” the department said in a statement the Miami Herald obtained. “We hold ourselves accountable for our actions and take pride in a professional level of service and fairness to all.”