Miami Beach Police Officers Exchanged Racist Emails: State Attorney

More than a dozen Miami Beach Police officers exchanged hundreds of racist, homophobic and pornographic emails, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said Thursday.

"Minorities and women were being demeaned in these emails that were sent between the officers, nude photographs were passed around and emails portraying offensive sexual acts were disseminated," said Fernandez Rundle. She made made the announcement at a joint news conference with Police Chief Daniel Oates and Mayor Philip Levine.

The images included jokes about President Barack Obama and golfer Tiger Woods. One image depicted a "Black Monopoly" board game where every square said "go to jail."

"The Fraternal Order of Police is a diverse organization who does not tolerate racism or sexism in any way but we continue to support our members' right to due process," Miami Beach FOP President Bobby Jenkins said in a statement.

Prosecutors are reviewing the cases of 16 officers who sent or received the emails, Fernandez Rundle said.

The officers are involved in 540 cases, with about 30 percent of them involving black defendants. Some of the cases remain open and most are for misdemeanors.

"Our job and our commitment is to ensure that we will do everything that we can to make sure that we do not prosecute cases that have been tainted by racial prejudice and racial insensitivity," Fernandez Rundle said.

Chief Oates said the major senders of the emails were a major who left the department in July and a captain who had been demoted and was fired Thursday morning.

"This is a very sad day for Miami Beach," Mayor Levine said. "I can assure the public that we've made all the necessary steps, and will continue to do so, because situations like this we will never sweep under the rug."

According to Oates, most of the material was sent between 2010 and 2012. Oates joined the department in June 2014 and found out about the material in July 2014.

About one million emails were examined and about 230 were found to be offensive, Oates said. Hundreds of pornographic images were given to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to ensure none of the images were of minors, Oates said.

The major who left the department also sent an autopsy photo of Raymond Herisse, the man who was killed in a 2011 police shooting, to someone outside the department, Oates said.

Fernandez Rundle said they are investigating whether emailing the autopsy photo violated state statutes.

"We are turning the organization around, we want to create an environment, we want to send a signal to our employees that this is an organization where you can be proud to stand forward and say 'I've seen this kind of misconduct by an employee and it's safe and proper and appropriate for me to report it and have something done about it,'"

The news comes just months after four Fort Lauderdale Police officers lost their jobs over a racist video and racist text messages. Dozens of cases linked to those officers have been dropped.

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