A sergeant who supervised one of the officers partying at the Clevelander before a near-fatal ATV crash has been informed of the city’s intent to dismiss him.

Months after two Miami Beach police officers were relieved of duty for a drunken ATV crash that left two South Beach visitors badly hurt over fourth of july weekend, a third policeman — this one higher up the chain — is facing dismissal for his lax supervision that night.
The buck apparantly stops with Sgt. Manuel Moraga, an 11-year veteran of the department. He was monitoring the police radio the night of the incident and was singled out for leaving his midnight shift 2 1/2 hours early and for failing to note that one of his subordinates was spending the night in South Beach with a colleague rather than patrolling the mid-Beach section where he was assigned.

At 6:09 a.m., less than an hour after the accident, Moraga exited the Miami Beach police station. He didn’t tell anyone he was leaving except a dispatcher, and for the next two and a half hours, there was no supervisor in charge of covering middle and North Beach, since another supervisor had also gone home sick. Lt. Jerome Berrian was left to handle the crash and everything else that was happening in the city that morning.

Officer Kuilan, who is charged criminally in the crash, and Officer Gutierrez, were both drinking and partying at the Clevelander bar that morning with a group of women attending a bachelorette party. Kuilan took the bride-to-be, Adalee Martin, for a spin on his ATV, speeding down the beach with his lights out before crashing into two people on the sand. Blood alcohol tests showed that both officers where under the influence of alcohol.

According to the internal affairs probe, Moraga ignored repeated radio transmissions indicating that Gutierrez was not in his assigned area, but was rather accompanying Kuilan on his South Beach patrol duties.

This disciplinary action comes at a time when the Miami Beach police department has been harshly criticized for a lax culture that has enabled rampant police misconduct and abuse of overtime.

The events that transpired over Fourth of July weekend is nothing sort of appalling. The general consensus is that people act stupid when they are drunk, and national holidays like Fourth of July weekend typically provide the backdrop for drunken debauchery and unfortunate accidents to take place. Thus, the police are in place to maintain order, keep the peace, and ultimately to protect innocent civilians on rambunctious party weekends; they are not empowered to assume the role of ”life of the party.”

Aside from the overtly apparent results stemming from this unfortunate event, what the ATV disaster has really brought to light is the rampant misconduct that flows strong in the Miami Beach police department. It is disconcerting that such a tragic event as the ATV accident had to take place for these police violations and methods to come to light. As the Miami Beach police department has come under rigid scrutiny from Internal Affairs and local and national media outlets alike, there will likely be further instances of indiscretion and officer misconduct revealed during the investigation into the department. More to come as it is released.

For additional news relating to Miami Beach police misconduct, not related to the ATV accident, visit this link: http://www.miamiherald.com/2011/10/13/2451163/miami-city-commission-to-consider.html (story involving a Miami Beach police officer who was found guilty of sexually assaulting three women in 2007, while in police uniform.)

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