Controversial Miami cop Javier Ortiz suspended amid internal affairs investigation

·3 min read

Miami’s most controversial cop has been suspended with pay pending an internal investigation.

A police spokesperson on Thursday confirmed that Javier Ortiz was sent home from his job as captain over the traffic enforcement unit amid an inquiry by the department’s internal affairs detectives.

City Manager Art Noriega said he was not at liberty to disclose the nature of the internal investigation.

Ortiz, a former president of the Fraternal Order of Police union who had been suspended last year during an FBI excessive-force probe, became a target of criticism from several of his colleagues after he was reinstated in February 2021. Fellow police officers have accused him of mistreatment, which appears to be the basis for his latest suspension.

Miami attorney Michael Pizzi said the timing of Ortiz’s suspension came as no surprise because Pizzi has filed one lawsuit and notified the city of a second suit over his alleged “harassment” of a Hispanic male sergeant, Edwin Gomez, and a Black female major, Keandra Simmons, both veterans of the police department.

“He has made their lives miserable, a living hell,” Pizzi told the Miami Herald Thursday. “It is not a coincidence that he has been suspended from the police force because the city of Miami is liable for condoning Captain Ortiz’s conduct.”

Ortiz’s defense attorney, Rick Diaz, stressed that Ortiz had not been fired but simply suspended with pay during an internal affairs investigation, which he called “standard operating procedure.”

He also said he could not comment about the complaint because Ortiz had not been notified about its nature but that the captain “has not committed any departmental, or for that matter, any other type of violation.“

“Rest assured that we are looking forward to receiving the complaint and defending it vigorously to vindicate the captain,” Diaz said in a written statement to the Herald.

The suspension comes less than a week after Interim Police Chief Manny Morales was sworn in to lead the city’s force. Morales took the reins minutes after former chief Art Acevedo was fired following weeks of controversy, allegations of impropriety hurled between the chief and commissioners, and contentious public hearings.

Ortiz has risen through the ranks of the department despite a checkered past marked by racist comments, dubious arrests, numerous use-of-force complaints and other misconduct. In January 2020, Ortiz, who is of Hispanic origin, asserted during a public City Hall meeting that he was a Black male.

He was reinstated last February after the Justice Department in Washington, D.C., ended a yearlong FBI investigation into Ortiz, with sources telling the Miami Herald that prosecutors decided there was not enough evidence to charge him for a series of questionable incidents, most involving excessive use-of-force allegations.

The probe, initially handled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, centered around a series of incidents involving Ortiz when he worked both on- and off-duty jobs. Some of those incidents led to hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal settlements between the city of Miami and Ortiz’s alleged victims.

Among them: Last January, Miami city commissioners approved a $100,000 settlement with Melissa Lopez, who claimed in a lawsuit that Ortiz broke her wrist during an arrest at Art Basel in December 2017.

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