MIAMI (WSVN) - A City of Miami Police officer who has repeatedly found himself at the center of controversy has once again been suspended, the department said.
A statement issued by Miami Police Officer Kenia Fallat on Wednesday reads in part, “Capt. Javier Ortiz has been relieved of duty with pay pending an internal affairs investigation.”
The details surrounding the current suspension are unclear, but 7News has learned that he was named in two lawsuits filed this week.
Ortiz, a former Fraternal Order of Police president, has an embattled past that has garnered national headlines over the years.
In January of 2020, he raised eyebrows when he told city commissioners, “I am a Black male. Yes, I am, and I am not Hispanic. I was born in this country.”
The Miami Community Police Benevolent Association conducted an investigation and found that during his time with the department, Ortiz changed his ethnicity from white Hispanic male to Black non-Hispanic while applying for higher ranking positions.
”It’s an insult to African Americans that you would use our race to get an advantage on the exam, so that way you can get promoted,” said Sgt. Stanley Jean-Poix with the Police Benevolent Association.
Back in 2017, Ortiz was accused of harassing a woman who captured video of a Miami-Dade Police officer speeding and then recorded herself confronting him.
Ortiz has also had multiple complaints of misconduct filed against him.
Video recorded on Wednesday showed Ortiz responding to a scene on the Rickenbacker Causeway.
But for the time being, he has been pulled off the streets.
In terms of the internal affairs investigation, Thursday evening, Richard Diaz, an attoney representing Ortiz, sent 7News a statement that reads in part, “We have not yet been notified or received the nature of the complaint, so we are not prepared to comment any further, other than to say that Capt. Ortiz has not committed any departmental, or for that matter, any other type of violation.”
When asked whether or not his client would be available for an on-camera interview, Diaz said he would not.
As for the two lawsuits where Ortiz is named, one was filed by Miami Police Sgt. Edwin Gomez claiming that he participated in a racial discrimination investigation filed against Ortiz in January 2020.
“Captain Ortiz made Sergeant Gomez’s life a living hell,” said Michael Pizzi, Gomez’s attorney. “Captain Javier Ortiz and the City of Miami Police Department have been retaliating against Sergeant Gomez because Sergeant Gomez cooperated in a federal investigation about racism and inappropriate behavior by Captain Ortiz.”
The lawsuit states that as part of the investigation, which included the testimony of two other officers, Gomez said he testified about how Ortiz regularly engaged in “outrageous acts of despicable discrimination” against Black citizens, women and other minority groups.
Pizzi said last month, he also sent a letter to city leaders on behalf of Miami Police Maj. Keandra Simmons, requesting the immediate suspension of Ortiz.
“He was harassing Major Keandra Simmons and really terrorizing other officers,” said Pizzi.
The second lawsuit was filed by Polini Sanon regarding a 2017 incident when, Sanon said, he was pulled over. Sanon claims Ortiz arrived at the scene and harassed him, grabbed him by the shoulders, shoved him forcefully against his car and snapped handcuffs onto his wrists.
“It is our hope that by going to the federal court system with a civil rights lawsuit against the City of Miami, that we will forever stop Captain Ortiz from harassing the public, stop Captain Ortiz from harassing and creating a bad environment for his fellow officers,” said Pizzi.
As of Friday evening, it remains unclear how long Ortiz’s suspension is expected to last.
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