Tonight, more criticism for the Hollywood Police Department. A South Florida man claims he tried to report an incident involving what he believed to have been a fake police officer, but got arrested instead. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero is On the Case with the exclusive.
The Hollywood Police Department is currently being investigated for the way its Internal Affairs Department has handled citizen complaints in the past, and now one of those citizens is speaking out.
Rob Pinto: “I look in my rearview mirror, I see these tiny little blue and red lights come on like they were on this visor.”
Rob Pinto was driving with a friend on Arthur Street in Hollywood in 2010 when they were pulled over by two armed men in an unmarked car.
Rob Pinto: “He goes like this, puts his hand on the gun. You gotta realize this man was dressed all in black. No markings, no lettering, no IDs, and he refused to ID himself.”
Pinto’s pal, Doug Murray, was the passenger.
Carmel Cafiero: “Did they identify themselves as police?”
Doug Murray: “No, and they had no markings of anything on them.”
Rob Pinto: “I thought I was actually going to be robbed by bogus cops.”
They were eventually told to go on their way. As the friends discussed what had happened, they decided they should report the incident to police, because they thought the men were impersonating officers.
However, at Hollywood PD, they say a sergeant was rude.
Rob Pinto: “And out of his mouth he goes, ‘They work for me. Who are you to come here and question my guys?'”
Carmel Cafiero: “Things went south for Pinto after that. He says he was talked to so disrespectfully by that sergeant, he asked to file an Internal Affairs complaint. Instead, he ended up arrested for the first time in his life.”
Pinto was arrested for impersonating an officer himself. Apparently, when he showed his driver’s license in his wallet, the officer also saw his government ID that he needed for his maintenance job.
Pinto says he didn’t even know why he was being arrested until he was handed a document.
Rob Pinto: “And I look at it and it says ‘falsely impersonating law enforcement.'”
Carmel Cafiero: “Did you ever?”
Rob Pinto: (shakes his head no)
Murray backs that up.
Carmel Cafiero: “And you’re convinced that he’s completely innocent of all of this?”
Doug Murray: “No. I was there, I was there”
Carmel Cafiero: “So it didn’t happen they way the police said.”
Doug Murray: “It didn’t happen; it didn’t.”
But a police report said, “Pinto did impersonate a federal law enforcement officer.” Despite that, the Broward State Attorney’s Office did not prosecute Pinto.
Hollywood then took the case to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and it also did not prosecute Pinto.
Carmel Cafiero: “It took four years for the cases to be completed, but once he was cleared, Pinto, along with Murray, came back to the police department to file an Internal Affairs complaint. This time, the issue was false arrest, but he says he never got a chance to finish telling his story.”
Rob Pinto: “They stopped the interview. They said, ‘We’re gonna have to continue this. We’ll call you guys.’
But weeks passed and no one called, leading Pinto to believe he was being ignored. The chief says that is not the case.
Hollywood Police Chief Frank Fernandez: “And we are following up as we speak.”
Frank Fernandez became Hollywood’s police chief just over a year ago. He was not with the department when the original Pinto case took place. He says today things have changed.
Chief Frank Fernandez: “Well, any citizen will expect, and I will demand, fair treatment for everyone, as well as my officers.”
There are now complaint brochures and forms in the lobby of the police department. Internal Affairs has been moved from headquarters to the second floor of a fire station to remove any intimidation factor.
Pinto hopes, and Chief Fernandez promises, this time around his complaint will get a fair shot. Carmel Cafiero, 7News.
IF YOU HAVE A STORY FOR CARMEL TO INVESTIGATE: