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The Sarasota Herald-Tribune on Sunday printed the first story of a nine part series that's going to be Topic "A" for discussion at at least one South Florida newspaper on Monday. Guaranteed.
Titled "Unfit for Duty," the Herald-Tribune series will examine over the remaining 8 days, "how Florida police officers ... stay on the job despite multiple complaints, crimes."
(Last October, in a similar series, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel investigated "Milwaukee police officers who have been found guilty of various infractions. [A] front-page package kicked off a huge, three-part look at police discipline.")
In part one, of the Herald-Tribune series, reporters Anthony Cormier and Matthew Doig, take an in-depth look at the record of Opa Locka police Sgt. German Roque, who is, unarguably Florida's dirtiest cop.
German Bosque's personnel file looks more like a rap sheet than a résumé.The Herald-Tribune story is already eliciting reaction from South Florida journalists.
In two decades, the Opa-Locka Police Department opened 40 internal affairs cases on Bosque. Sixteen of them were for battery or excessive force.
[Read Bosque's 64-page IA file by clicking here.]
Fired five times and arrested three, he was charged with stealing a car, trying to board an airplane with a loaded gun and driving with a suspended license.
Internal Affairs investigations found that Bosque split a man's lip with a head butt. He opened another man's head with a leg sweep and takedown. He spit in the face of a drunken, stumbling arrestee. One time, he smacked a juvenile so hard the boy's face was red and swollen the next day.
Bosque has been caught defying direct orders, lying to supervisors and falsifying police reports. Off duty, he was accused by women of domestic violence and stalking. During inspections, the agency found a counterfeit $20 bill, cocaine and crack pipes in his patrol car.
Still, Bosque has kept his badge.
In a computer analysis of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's discipline cases, the Herald-Tribune found Bosque's certificate had been jeopardized due to misconduct more than any other working officer.
During an August interview in Opa-Locka, Bosque lit up with excitement when he heard that he led the state in discipline cases.
"I can't believe that," he said. "I'm not trying to smile. I just ... damn!"
A high-level staff member with the FDLE's Bureau of Officer Standards had a different reaction. He first said it wasn't possible for an officer to get in trouble that many times and still be certified.
Then he pulled Bosque's records.
His response: "Holy shit."
After reading it, one veteran newspaper reporter wrote, "That cop's record is off the wall. I've seen a few bad jackets, but nothing like that."
One Miami Herald reporter wrote on Facebook, "If even half of what was in this officer's file is true, there is no way he should be an officer. In any part of the country. Keeping him on the force leads to stories like these that contribute to citizens mistrust of police."
If you're a Miami Herald reader, by now you're probably asking yourself, "Why didn't the Herald do this story?"
While staff cuts have left the Herald with a greatly reduced staff, the paper is still doing great work.
Bosque's file however, is available on the Internet for anyone to see.
But, it's no surprise that the Herald-Tribune is out front on this story.
Last March, Yahoo! News reported the Sarasota Herald-Tribune was the "hottest place to land a journalism job." Matthew Doig, one of the writers of the Bosque story, had posted a much-talked about listing for an investigative reporter.
If you're the type of sicko who likes holing up in a tiny, closed office with reporters of questionable hygiene to build databases from scratch by hand-entering thousands of pages of documents to take on powerful people and institutions that wish you were dead, all for the glorious reward of having readers pick up the paper and glance at your potential prize-winning epic as they flip their way to the Jumble… well, if that sounds like journalism Heaven, then you're our kind of sicko.A month later, the 95,000 circulation Herald-Tribune gained more attention by winning its first Pulitzer Prize ever.
Then, last September, the St. Petersburg Times hired away Chris Davis, an editor and reporter at Sarasota Herald-Tribune who headed up the team that won the Pulitzer.
Meanwhile, I can't wait to see which Florida newspaper will fire the next shot in the Great Florida Newspaper Investigative Reporting Wars.
This is going to be interesting.
As a part of their series, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune has posted a searchable FDLE database that lists officers, complaints and disciplinary actions.