September 12, 2018
Two civilian employees of the Miami Police Department were quietly fired this week after they were caught taking police "property" from storage lockers and placing it inside their own cars, a Miami Police spokesperson confirmed to New Times yesterday. A third civilian employee tied to the scheme resigned amid the investigation.
The department is, however, being cagey about what the three men actually took from police storage containers. A source with knowledge of the investigation tells New Times the items were stored in the same facilities where police evidence is kept, but MPD maintains no actual case evidence was tainted or stolen.
"This was not evidence," spokesperson Kenia Fallat told New Times regarding the items taken by the employees. However, she refused to clarify what items were taken. "This was police 'property' that was slated to be destroyed," she says.
Instead of destroying the items in storage, Fallat confirmed the employees instead took them. She wouldn't say whether police recovered the items.
Police "property" generally refers to items taken from civilians, either as part of old cases that have closed or gone stale, things that were seized through civil-asset forfeiture programs, or simply found items that were turned in to the police for various reasons, including safekeeping. So that kind of "property" can include anything from expensive clothing and jewelry to cell phones, computers, and money. When investigations close, items are sometimes returned to their owners — in other cases, they can sit in police property rooms for years. Prosecutors typically need to sign off before old case evidence is forfeited or destroyed.
The missing police property, which was slated to be destroyed, instead wound up in the cars of three civilian employees — Rolando Aleman, Manuel Perez, and Carlton Haynes. Haynes, who resigned amid the investigation, was reportedly contacted in 2017 by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as part of another probe, into 11 decades-old revolvers stolen from MPD storage units. It's unclear if the firings have anything to do with the missing guns.
The Miami Police Department has had issues with stolen property and evidence in the past. MPD was caught using a rusted metal locker under an I-95 overpass to store evidence from hundreds of cases. Local blogger Al Crespo in 2016 detailed how pests, water, and the elements destroyed the container and irreparably damaged evidence from more than 500 cases.
After Crespo broke news of the locker's poor condition, former Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes claimed he'd learned of the locker's decrepit state only in September 2016. But that claim was a lie: Crespo obtained documents showing Llanes had written emails about the container's sorry state as far back as at least 2012, when Llanes himself wrote in internal messages that the container was "rotting." The department even tried to buy a new storage locker, but no one ever followed through.
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