Police arrest their own suspected of brutality
HOMESTEAD, Fla. (WSVN) -- Undercover police detectives had to arrest their own after alleged brutal beatings at the hands of police outside a bar.
The Homestead Police Department had the bar under surveillance when, police said, they caught officers committing heinous acts. An internal affairs report documented instances of police brutality, which led to the arrest Monday of three Homestead police officers.
On Tuesday, Homestead Police Chief Alexander Rolle spoke at a news conference explaining the arrests. "We stand firm in what we did," he said. "We think we took the proper and right actions for this community."
Those arrested included Homestead Police Sgt. Jeffrey Rome, who bonded out of jail Monday. He faces charges of battery, false imprisonment and abuse of an elderly adult for allegedly beating and pepper-spraying men outside of Celio's Cuartel Latino Bar. The bar is frequented by migrant workers.
The others arrested included Officer Giovanni Soto and Sgt. Lizanne Deegan. Soto faces charges of battery and official misconduct after allegedly beating a man outside the same bar and then dropping him off at home without offering medical assistance. When that man called 911, Deegan responded. She now faces an official misconduct charge, accused of covering up for Soto.
Undercover officers investigating human trafficking at the same location in early 2011 caught two of the attacks on yet-to-be-released surveillance video. "Those three were placed on administrative leave with pay by the Chief of Police," explained Homestead Police Detective Fernando Morales. "At the conclusion of that investigation all evidence of the investigation was turned over to the State Attorney's Office."
The State Attorney Katherine Fernandez-Rundle released the following statement: "Police brutality is wrong no matter what form it takes. The covering-up of police brutality is equally wrong. That's why we are prosecuting these cases in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Justice, who played an essential role in helping make these cases possible."
John Rivera, president of the Miami-Dade County Police Benevolent Association called the officers' arrests, more than a year later, a political move during an election year and called the investigation flawed. "It was just a very bad case from the beginning," he said. "The department made many mistakes, and it looked like a witch hunt."
Meanwhile, the arrest affidavit notes that dispatchers received frequent complaints of police brutality from men who frequented the bar. "There were several calls that were dispatched to that [bar]," Rolle said.
Several migrant rights groups were also present at the news conference. They said many undocumented workers are afraid to come forward despite being victimized by police because they fear being deported.
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