ThinkProgress

Officer with history of racism and harassment of women promoted to Miami Police captain

Sgt. Javier Ortiz, vice president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, speaks during an interview with The Associated Press, May 29, 2012 in Miami. (CREDIT: AP/Wilfredo Lee)

Javier Ortiz, the head of Miami’s police union, was promoted from lieutenant to captain Wednesday, despite his past harassment of women of color and racist statements. Just a few months ago, Ortiz was recently assigned desk duty and stripped of his gun for harassing and doxxing a woman of color, after she reported a speeding police officer last year.

Ortiz responded by posting photos of Claudia Castillo and her personal cell phone number on Facebook and encouraging his followers to harass the woman, according to the Miami New Times. Castillo said she was concerned for her safety and was scared of Ortiz, who followed her to the City Hall parking lot after she testified. She requested an emergency restraining order. Ortiz was placed on desk duty in March, but regained his job in April. This wasn’t the first time he did something like this and got away with it. In 2015, he smeared Marilyn Smith, a woman who posted a video on Facebook of an officer beating a man in handcuffs. Castillo shared photos of Smith from her Facebook page, suggesting that Smith herself is violent, despite the fact that she did nothing illegal by filming the incident.

“Our community has accepted behavior that motivates violence in our younger generation,” Ortiz wrote. He tried to change the focus from the actual event in question — an officer beating a handcuffed man in a police car — to violence against police officers, by writing, “Social media has focused so much on #blacklifematters [sic] /alllifematters campaigns, yet nobody targets the root of the problem our community faces today.”

Ortiz’s harassment of women of color wasn’t limited to civilians, but extended to his colleagues. He accused the assistant chief of police, Anita Najiy, of not respecting the United States because she didn’t hold her hand over her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance during a promotional event at a college.

“If you’re not pledging allegiance to the United States, my question is what country are you pledging allegiance to?” Ortiz said, according to the Miami New Times. He sent a letter to Chief Rodolfo Llanes about her action, even though it didn’t violate the police code of conduct. In addition, Ortiz said he heard “rumors” she is a Muslim, as if it were somehow relevant to her reaction to the Pledge of Allegiance.

These are only just a few of the things Ortiz has done that are of concern. He has defended police officers who shot Black men numerous times, including those who shot Alton Sterling and Terrence Crutcher, and called Tamir Rice a “thug.” Ortiz started a Facebook page in support of Darren Wilson, the officer who shot Michael Brown, which attracted racist Facebook users. He led dozens of police union members into a City Hall commission meeting, where they reportedly shouted and banged against windows, scaring city workers.

Despite all of this, Ortiz received a promotion, a sign of the acceptance of hostile and abusive behavior toward women of color in police forces across the country. Black women are targeted by police, but it is rarely discussed as frequently as the targeting of Black men. Black women are disproportionately detained in the juvenile justice system, and Black women are incarcerated at twice the rate of white women. A 2016 paper on police shootings and use of force found that during stop-and-frisks, Black women were 22 percent more likely than white women to experience use of force. There have been numerous news stories of Black women being mistreated by police, including Sandra Bland’s 2015 traffic stop and subsequent death, a Texas police officer throwing a Black female teenager to the ground for trying to use a private pool, and an officer using physical force against a Black woman who was considered “uncooperative” after she was pulled over for driving 15 miles per hour over the speed limit.

Major urban police departments have received scrutiny and criticism for their racial and gender biases. In 2016, the U.S. Department of Justice criticized San Francisco’s police department, one of the largest in the nation, for its racial bias. A separate Department of Justice investigation last year found that the Baltimore Police Department’s unconstitutional practices led to a disproportionate number of Black people being stopped, searched, and arrested. It also found that the department “seriously and systematically under-investigates” sexual assault reports. Examples include an email calling an alleged rape survivor a “conniving little whore” and the finding that police did not take accusations from female sex workers seriously.

There are numerous other examples of officers using their power to exploit women. Recently, the Oakland Police department settled a claim over 14 officers in its department engaged in paying a teenage girl for sex and exchanging information for sex. The young woman, who is now 19, said officers from other police departments in the area were part of the scandal as well. Recently, an 18 year-old woman came forward to say that two police officers who found prescription drugs in her car during a September traffic stop handcuffed her, took her to an unmarked van, and raped her. DNA samples taken from the officers came back as a match when they were compared to the rape kits. The two cops say that they had consensual oral and vaginal sex with the woman, despite the fact that she was in police custody and in handcuffs. Although they were stripped of their guns and shields and placed on modified duty, they’re still on duty. Thus it shouldn’t shock anyone that an officer like Ortiz, who has harassed women numerous times, would not only keep his job but receive a promotion.