Coral Gables cop accused of attacking wife loses two-year fight to win back his job

Samantha J. Gross, Aaron Leibowitz
·2 min read

A former Coral Gables police officer kicked off the force following accusations of domestic violence has lost his bid to win back his job.

Manuel Rivero, 43, was fired in 2019 after being accused on three occasions of attacking his wife, including two instances in which he was arrested. He appealed his termination, but lost his case Thursday when arbitrator Lee Kraftchick opined in a 59-page ruling that the city was justified in taking away his badge.

“The city acted within its managerial discretion and reasonably when it decided to discharge” Rivero, Kraftchick wrote. “The rules he violated include state criminal statutes, and it is a matter of common sense that a police officer cannot physically abuse others.”

Arbitration is the appeals process used when an officer objects to discipline ordered by their police department. The process can take years, and officers who are fired and reinstated can get back pay for the time they weren’t working.

An attorney who represented Rivero and the Fraternal Order of Police in arbitration, Osnat Rind, did not immediately respond to a request for comment Friday afternoon.

Rivero was a 19-year veteran of the department when he was fired in May 2019 after allegations that he physically abused his wife and drove his patrol car while out of uniform.

He was first reprimanded in June 2017 after an alleged domestic violence incident at a movie theater in South Miami, and was put on paid administrative leave during the investigation. Later that summer, he was arrested at his home in Southwest Miami-Dade County.

According to an internal affairs file obtained by the Herald in 2017, he had a history of domestic disputes and was arrested and charged in 2016 with one count of misdemeanor battery and one count of domestic battery by strangulation, a third-degree felony.

Charges were not pursued by prosecutors after either arrest, according to court records.

The Fraternal Order of Police argued that Rivero was not guilty of any of the allegations, that the city’s evidence doesn’t make a case for terminating him and that Rivero should be paid for the time he has spent not working.

“[Officer] Rivero admits his marriage has been far from perfect, but the city alleges he is guilty of domestic violence,” the union said, according to the arbitration ruling. “The union does not support any act of violence, but the just cause standard requires the arbitrator to view the evidence in context without prejudice or preconception.”

But Kraftchick wrote that, while Rivero denied accountability for the allegations he has faced and contended that “everyone but him is lying,” it was Rivero who was “being untruthful.”

“The city can reasonably expect its officers to comply with the laws they are required to enforce and to refrain from violent abuse of their spouses,” wrote Kraftchick. “The city conducted thorough investigations. The facts show [Officer] Rivero was evasive and untruthful when questioned.”