Monday, September 24, 2007
7 News Investigations: Arresting Developments
A police chief being accused of demanding quotas from officers: arrest a certain number of people each month, and while it may not bother some, other officers disagree with the policy. Investigative reporter Patrick Fraser has gathered both sides in his special report Arresting Development.
WSVN -- Being a cop is a tough job, but one man concluded a few Hialeah cops were not working hard enough.
That man was their chief.
Rolando Bolanos, Hialeah Police Chief: "So what we have is we have the first six months of 2007, we have crime going up and arrests are going down. That doesn't make sense."
The chief looked at arrest records for the first six months of this year.
At one station, for example, some officers made more than 20 arrests.
But two had only one arrest and one officer didn't arrest anyone in the six-month period.
Rolando Bolanos: "It tells me that some officers are working very hard, and some officers are not working at all, and my job the job of the police department, is to go out and combat crime."
The word went out in two memos, "Get to work."
This email said three arrests per month is the minimum acceptable standard for patrol officers.
The officers who didn't make the minimum number of arrests got this memo that said, "You are formally being counseled on this date for failing to maintain an acceptable number of arrests."
Needless to say the memos leaked out to the police union.
John Rivera, President of the Police Benevolent Association: "The constitution was created to stop things like this. For us in America to do anything like this is just beyond crazy."
And the memos were given to the ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union).
Barry Butin, ACLU Attorney: "Even though lawyers have always thought there may be a quota, we have never seen it in writing. We thought it was something unofficial or nothing we could ever prove."
And they still haven't proven it, says the chief.
Barry Butin: "We don't have quotas in the police department. What we have are standards and expectations."
That answer doesn't surprise Rivera.
John Rivera: "We know better. Anytime a number is used, I don't care how they masquerade it, I don't care what facade they put in front of it. It is a quota."
Now, you might be watching and saying, "At work I have to do a certain number of things. That's a quota, so what's the big deal?" But to some officers, a quota is a dirty word.
They argue it's dangerous, that if an officer has to arrest a certain number of people a month, eventually, an innocent person will get rounded up.
Barry Butin: "To me that's completely outrageous. Whether or not it is illegal, I don't know, but it's outrageous and immoral, if you ask me."
John Rivera: "If you are a citizen and you get arrested only because that officer had to bring home a number rather than to give you a break or to have used discretion."
But the chief counters his officers are being told to get the crooks off the streets, not the innocent people, and if his critics don't like it, too bad.
Rolando Bolanos: "I don't care what the ACLU says. I don't care what the PBA or FOP (Fraternal Order of Police) says. I am not here to please them. I am here to please the people of Hialeah, only the people of Hialeah. I'm not here to please the cops. I don't care about the morale. I don't care. They must make legal arrests, but, trust me, there is plenty of crime in Hialeah for them to bump into it."
In fact, not only is he proud of his arrest demands, he wishes the numbers were higher.
Rolando Bolanos: "Whether that is three, five or 30, I don't stand by the number that they need to make 3 arrests per month. I want to see 30 arrests a month if that is what they can do."
To critics, it's a dangerous quota.
To Bolanos, it's just proof the cops are doing their job and getting dangerous criminals off the streets of Hialeah.