On May 28, 2006, a young white man called Miami police to report that two black men had robbed him at gunpoint of his car, watch and cell phone in Coconut Grove.
After responding to the scene and taking statements, the officers tried to file the report as an armed robbery, but Commander Lorenzo Whitehead ordered it reduced to an “information report”, meaning that it would not end up as a criminal statistic.
In keeping the crime stats low in his district, Whitehead ensured he would receive a healthy bonus that year, according to a 165-page investigative report compiled by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Whitehead – who did not respond to the scene - justified his decision on the belief that the victim had been robbed while trying to purchase drugs in the black area of the Grove.
Whitehead told his sergeant that "the victim was a young, rich white kid and that young, rich white kids do not go into the black Grove for any reason but to buy drugs" and that he wasn't wasn’t “going to let some kid with a drug problem raise his crime stat(s),” the report states.
That incident was one of many investigated by the FDLE over the course of several months to determine whether the Miami Police Department was systematically and deliberately downgrading crime statistics in order to receive Pay For Performance bonuses.
The FDLE concluded that while there were several instances when crimes were downgraded – and even a “self-imposed pressure” from some officers to keep crime stats low - there was no evidence that Chief John Timoney was deliberately ordering the falsification of records.
The investigation began in Sept. 2007 after police union leaders Armando Aguilar and Carlos Avila accused the top brass of “downgrading dispatch calls for service and falsifying police reports in order to alter reported crime statistics.”
Despite the inconclusive findings of deliberate manipulation of records, investigators found plenty of inconsistencies in the information reports they reviewed.
In fact, of the 857 information reports they reviewed spanning a period of one year, almost one-third turned out to be actual criminal incidents that did not get recorded as such, thus never got investigated – including three sexual battery cases that were sent back to detectives for immediate re-opening of the cases.
It is no wonder why Mayor Manny Diaz is able to proclaim that “while crime numbers are increasing nationwide, the City of Miami has been blessed in maintaining our crime levels at near record lows.” We doubt the victims whose cases were downgraded didn’t feel so blessed.
On September 6, 2007, an officer responded to the scene where a woman said a man struck her on the back of the head with a baseball bat, then ordered her into an abandoned house where he raped her.
When the cop arrived, he noticed she had a lump on the back of her head. However, “he had concerns with the veracity of her allegations” because he believed her to be a homeless drug abuser – as if that should make a difference in a rape case.
He later learned that she refused treatment in the rape center, so the case was reduced to an “information report”, meaning a possible rapist with a baseball bat is free to rape again without fear of police looking for him.
On June 11, 2007, an officer responded to another rape call where the victim said she had been raped at gunpoint. The victim was transported to a rape crisis center where a detective from the sex crimes unit interviewed her. After the interview, the detective told the officer to write it up as an information report because a rape did not occur.
However, when interviewed by the FDLE investigators, the officer said she believed the victim had been raped.
On November 5, 2006, a man called police to report that he had been abducted by four men who drove him to an ATM and forced him to withdraw money.
The responding officer initially marked it as an “abduction/kidnapping” on the report, but later crossed it out and labeled it as an information report instead. The officer told investigators that he did not recall why he made the change.
In the Coconut Grove case where Whitehead is accused of ordering an incident downgraded, Sergeant Catherine Carter told FDLE investigators that she refused to downgrade it because she knew it was a valid armed robbery.
Nevertheless, she said Whitehead had the incident downgraded once she had left on vacation.
Furthermore, when she returned from vacation, she discovered that Whitehead had transferred her from the Coconut Grove district to the Little Havana district.
Whitehead told FDLE investigators that Carter was a confrontational cop who did not like taking orders.
He also told investigators that he contacted the victim’s grandmother who informed him that there was no gun involved in the incident and that her grandson was not interested in giving any statements to police, which is why he ordered the case reduced to an information report.
However, when investigators contacted the grandmother and grandson, they were told that they had never been contacted by a Commander Whitehead or anybody from the Miami Police Department for that matter.
Other officers have accused Whitehead of ordering them to downgrade their crime stats as well.
The FDLE referred Whitehead’s case to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office, but they declined to pursue it.