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It appears that when all the facts surrounding Wednesday's tragic wrong-way crash on I-95 become known, we may learn that more than one person in the dysfunctional town of Opa-Locka will be shown to have the blood of four innocent people on their hands.
The Opa-Locka PD, it appears, has no discernible hiring standards for its officers, and no supervision of those officers once they hit the streets.
Or put another way, the Opa-Locka PD's professional standards are roughly akin to those of the Haitian National Police; if that.
According to the Miami Herald, Sergio Perez, the Opa-Locka police corporal who initiated the chase that led up to the deadly crash, "began his law enforcement career as a police explorer in Miami Beach. He twice failed the police entrance exam before being hired by Miami Shores in October 2006 as a recruit."
But just two months into his training, he crashed his car into another vehicle on I-95 while drag-racing at speeds in excess of 110 miles per hour, according to the FHP report. A city of Miami police detective witnessed the race, the report said. Perez, who was off duty, was taken into custody on reckless driving charges. It’s not clear from the report whether he was driving a patrol car or his personal vehicle.
But he was fired the following day and kicked out of the police academy.
He applied to Opa-locka a month later, noting on his application that the reason for leaving Miami Shores was because he “received a criminal traffic citation.’’
Opa-locka hired him a year later, in March 2008. There is no indication in his personnel file that the city conducted a background check or investigated why he left Miami Shores.
A month later, he was given a “post-accident substance control test,’’ which he passed. It’s not clear why the test was administered, since there is no accident report in his file.
Wednesday's chase and deadly crash just adds another sad chapter to Opa-Locka's sordid history.
In December of 2011, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune reported this about then Opa-Locka Police Sgt. German Bosque:
German Bosque's personnel file looks more like a rap sheet than a résumé.But wait! There's more!
In two decades, the Opa-Locka Police Department opened 40 internal affairs cases on Bosque. Sixteen of them were for battery or excessive force.
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.
Bosque is surprised he still wears a badge. He knows he is lucky to have gotten one in the first place.
He was kicked out of two police academies, the first for sleeping in class and the second after he was arrested on charges he stole a car, had a gun and impersonated an officer. He was later acquitted.
From the Dec. 2011 Herald-Tribune piece:
To most Florida law enforcement agencies, Bosque would be toxic. In Opa-Locka, he has been promoted to sergeant.
The city and its 62-person police force have been waylaid by years of incompetence, corruption and instability.
Bosque and other former officers guessed the department has had at least a dozen chiefs over the last 20 years. The interim city manager, Bryan Finnie, could not offer a definitive count.
The current chief, Cheryl Cason, was suspended earlier this year and investigated for allegedly covering up her role in a traffic crash. In 1995, when she was an Opa-Locka officer, Cason's certification was put on probation after she tested positive for cocaine.
Local news outlets have reported at least four city officials have been indicted on charges including tax fraud, taking bribes from a contractor and even using a city credit card to woo a paramour at P.F. Chang's.
The current mayor, Myra Taylor, took a plea deal in a federal tax case in 2004, left office and was re-elected in 2010. She did not return calls for comment.
Opa-Locka made headlines again last month when federal agents stormed City Hall to seize records on a police captain charged with protecting a drug ring and acting as a lookout during a bank robbery.
State law enforcement officials have investigated the police department but change has been slow. In 2002, the FDLE did a full review of the department and found it lacked enough squad cars, computers and weapons. FDLE agents also discovered untagged evidence in storage lockers, emergency calls put on hold and staffing shortages.
Former officers told the Herald-Tribune they once had to buy their own guns and bulletproof vests because the budget was so lean. And while there has been a recent push to replace aging weapons and patrol cars, Opa-Locka remains one of the worst-paying jobs in Florida. Rookie officers make $32,000, among the lowest entry wage for law enforcement officers in all of South Florida.
[Bosque was again fired by Opa-Locka last October...the sixth time in two decades.]
And just last February, Opa-Locka police captain Arthur Balom was sentenced in federal court to "87 months’ imprisonment for his participation in the distribution of cocaine, ecstasy, and oxycodone in Opa-Locka."
Miami Herald, Sept. 9, 2012: Tarnished badges: Opa-locka’s troubled police force