News and Commentary

Hispanic Miami Police Captain Suspended After Saying He Identifies As Black
Miami Beach police officers stand across the street from the night clubs and hotels on Ocean Drive in South Beach, Florida on March 22, 2019. - The excesses of students celebrating Spring Break have reached a point that is forcing Miami Beach officials to deploy anti-riot police to quell the party. Police are also promising to stop turning a blind eye to drinking alcohol on the beach and the smoking of marijuana. (Photo by RHONA WISE / AFP)
RHONA WISE/AFP via Getty Images

An Hispanic police captain in Miami has been suspended after sparking outrage at a public meeting last week when he claimed that he identifies as a black man because of the “one-drop rule.” His declaration came in response to being accused of falsely labeling himself as black on police exams in order to get a promotion.

Miami Police Department Capt. Javier Ortiz was called before city commissioners last Friday to address accusations that, after having identified himself as a white Hispanic man on previous documents, Ortiz changed his racial identity to black on multiple police exams in recent years as an attempt to get a promotion.

Though Ortiz admitted during the meeting that he has identified himself in the past as white and Hispanic, he insisted he now disavows that identity. “I’m a Black male. Yes, I am,” Ortiz told the commissioners at the meeting. “And I am not Hispanic.”

“So the question is why is it that every time he finishes an exam, he goes back to white Hispanic male?” asked Sgt. Stanley Jean-Poix, president of the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association, which NBC News notes is predominately black.

“Well, I learned that there are people in my family that are mixed, that are black,” said Ortiz. “And if you know anything about the one-drop rule, which started in the 20th century, which is what identifies and defines what a black man is, or a Negro.”

The “one-drop rule,” as the Miami Times notes, is a “centuries-old reference to assigning Black or minority status to persons of mixed-race.”

Amid calls for his termination from the Miami Community PBA and the local chapter of the NAACP, on Wednesday, Police Chief Jorge Colina revealed that Ortiz had been “relieved of duty” indefinitely.

“In the coming days, I will be meeting with the Chief to further discuss,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told NBC News in a statement Wednesday. “In the meantime, all law enforcement involved discipline is handled by the City of Miami Police Department.”

Jean-Poix celebrated the decision but made clear it’s not enough. “We’re thrilled; it’s about time; and it’s a step in the right direction,” he said, as reported by Miami News. “We’re looking for his full termination.”

Jean-Poix also wants Chief Colina removed. The union president’s demand that Ortiz be fired was included in a document submitted to the department declaring “no confidence” in Colina’s leadership and detailing a series of racial discrimination allegations against the department. “Submitted were incidents and summary reports intended to document how Black officers received disparate treatment with regard to discipline, promotions and widespread violations of training and internal affairs protocols,” the Miami Times notes.

The NAACP’s Miami-Dade Branch is also putting pressure on the department to fire Ortiz for his “incendiary” comments. “The city should be made aware that the statement he made is incendiary,” NAACP Miami-Dade Chairman Rubin Roberts told The Miami Herald on Tuesday. “He’s not in any way considerate of black men or women’s plight.”

Before making the decision to suspend Ortiz, Colina said Tuesday that he was meeting with attorney and human resource officers to determine how best to move forward. “You can’t make a knee-jerk decision. I don’t want to be sued by the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police union],” said Colina, as reported by the Herald. “I know a lot of people are emotional about it. It’s perplexing to me as well.”

Colina also made a point of saying that Ortiz listing himself as a black man on promotion exams did not impact his score.

The Herald points out that Colina suspended Ortiz three years ago “after a judge placed a restraining order against him for the incessant hassling of a woman who videotaped a cop giving her a ticket,” while NBC notes that four years ago Ortiz wrote a letter to the police union “threatening to boycott Beyoncé’s Miami concert performances after declaring her 2016 Super Bowl performance ‘anti-police.'”