Miami Police Chief: There is no rift with the FHP

7:02 AM, Nov 11, 2011   |    comments
Interim Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa (Source: CBS4)
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MIAMI (CBS4) - Miami's interim police chief has called for an end to any retaliatory acts by his officers directed at the Florida Highway Patrol because of an incident last month in which a trooper pulled over an off duty Miami officer who was speeding on the Turnpike.

During a roll call meeting Thursday morning, interim police chief Manuel Orosa said there is no rift with the FHP.

Orosa was asked about an incident last Tuesday when Miami police officer Tom Vokaty pulled over a FHP trooper on the Turnpike Extension near the Broward line. Sources told CBS4's Stephen Stock that a conversation ensued, supervisors were called in, but no citations were issued. Both sources said as the incident came to a close, Vokaty said to the trooper something to the effect of "how does it feel to be pulled over?"

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"One of our guys was driving to work, a trooper passed him by and he decided to basically to stop and tell the trooper 'Hey you're going to fast' which was a dumb-headed move since he wasn't aware whether the trooper was doing something official or not," said Orosa. "It should have been handled differently by calling the trooper's supervisor and saying I have this concern about this car."

Orosa said Vokaty now regrets his actions.

"It blew up in his face. He thought he was doing something good but basically what he failed to realize is that that was going to be attached to the original incident and blow it out of proportion," said Orosa.

Orsa said Vokaty's actions were not prompted by the FHP trooper pulling over a Miami officer last month.

"If that was the case, that would have occurred the night after the incident, not two weeks later. That's proof right there it's not tit for tat," said Orosa.

Vokaty has discipline with a record of formal counseling on jurisdictional authority going into his permanent record.

Orosa also issued a memo throughout the entire department reminding all officers of their jurisdictional limits. In the memo, Orosa also 'laid down the law' when it comes to pulling over other law enforcement officers.

"Effective immediately, all sworn personnel are prohibited from conducting traffic stops of law enforcement vehicles without first obtaining confirmation that the law enforcement vehicle was involved in a felony offense. If the felony offense is deemed to have occurred as a result of the law enforcement vehicle's driving pattern or behavior (for example, fleeing an eluding a police officer), confirmation as to whether the driver of the law enforcement vehicle is not engaged in official business, shall be obtained via Inter-City police radio. If it is confirmed that the vehicle was involved in a felony offense, the sworn member wishing to initiate the stop shall, in any case, obtain approval (via police radio) from a commanding officer (lieutenant or above) prior to initiating the stop."

Orosa said there is no rift with the FHP. He said word that there came for the media and people posting on websites claiming to be police officers. During the roll call, he told his officers if any of them had a problem with the FHP it ends right now.

The tension between the departments began on October 11th when trooper Donna Watts pulled over Miami officer Fausto Lopez. Watts dashboard video camera recorded Lopez, in a marked police car, blowing past her and other traffic on the Turnpike. In her conversation with dispatch, Watts said she was in pursuit with her lights flashing but the car was not slowing down.

"I don't know what agency it is. I'm on 91, almost to Sunrise. He's well over 120, and he's not stopping," said Trooper Watts. "All I can see is a white patrol car with blue or something like that. It would be Miami or DOT, and I'm sure it's not DOT."

On the transmission, her supervisor is heard telling Watts that if the car was, in fact, a City of Miami cruiser that she should stand down. When Watts finally pulled Lopez over, dispatch instructed her to take down the officer's name and contact information. Instead, Watts is seen on her dashboard camera approaching the cruiser with her gun drawn. Once Lopez exited the cruiser, Watts placed him in handcuffs. Watts was then ordered to release Lopez, which she did after citing him for reckless driving.

FHP spokesman Mark Wysocki told CBS4 in addition to Vokaty pulling over a trooper, there was a second incident over the weekend in which a Miami police officer pulled over a trooper. No details were given on that incident, but Wysocki said the trooper was not cited.

Also over the weekend, someone dumped five gallons of human waste on a trooper's patrol car which was parked outside his Miami home. The investigation into that incident is ongoing.

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