The command staff includes 22 employees who made six figures, including Chief Noriega's $208,783.73. (Noriega took a medical leave of absence March 16. It's unclear when or if he will return. His replacement, Assistant Chief Martinez, earned $186,467 last year.)

Of the 200, 160 of them topped $100,000 just in taxpayer-funded salaries and city-funded overtime. But many of the officers supplemented their income with off-duty work for private companies that hire them for upward of $30 an hour. Combined with taxpayer-funded overtime, some officers doubled or even tripled their base salaries.

Some of the cops on the list are simply hard workers. The third-highest earner last year, for instance, was Sgt. Hyok Chong, the force's only Korean speaker. He has amassed a clean internal affairs file during 13 years on the job. He brought home $177,827.36 last year, $49,119.19 of that in overtime and an additional $33,173 in off-duty work.

Illustrations by Pat Kinsella

New Times sent a letter through Miami Beach PD's public affairs office to each officer named in this article to give them a chance to respond. None of the officers chose to comment.

Then there's Sgt. Berrian. In 2004, Miramar police responded to a call at the then-34-year-old patrol officer's home. Inside, they found that his wife, Velma, had been hit in the lip and head. Berrian was accused of domestic violence after police learned he'd hit her and tried to backhand Velma's daughter during a fiery argument. The case was never prosecuted after Berrian's wife refused to press charges.

Three years later, in 2007, Berrian hauled in $225,065.15. About $38,000 of that came from an off-duty job, but from taxpayers, he still made $77,000 in salary, $99,700 in overtime, and almost $10,000 in so-called premium pay, which is compensation for special classes, motorcycle work, and other tasks.

Over the past five years, in fact, Berrian has made $824,528. He worked plenty of off-duty hours for private employers. But even if you subtract that pay, he still garnered more than $730,000 in tax dollars — $146,000 per year.

Berrian is a prime example of one of the dangers of allowing officers to work so much overtime. In February 2006, another sergeant found him asleep in his patrol car at Arthur Godfrey Road and Indian Creek Drive, which isn't exactly a quiet corner. He was supposed to be directing morning traffic during a boat show.

Scroll down the list a bit farther to Officer Dominguez, who earned $128,853.86 last year — $122,789.86 of which came from taxpayers. In 2001, the then-29-year-old earned headlines when a clubgoer at Level smashed a champagne bottle across his face during a melee at a Memphis Bleek rap show. Dominguez was hailed a hero. "A hit like that would bring anyone to their knees," Sgt. Richard Pelosi told the Miami Herald. "But this officer stayed conscious."

Dominguez's record isn't so heroic, according to his internal affairs file and court documents. On November 20, 2003, just after 8 p.m., he was speeding toward his home in Hialeah, weaving his city-issued 2003 Ford among cars on southbound I-75.

Just north of 154th Street, Dominguez swerved to pass a car. He didn't notice a Honda in his way until it was almost too late. Dominguez jerked to the right, hitting another car, which skidded across traffic — right in front of a pair of motorcycles.

Osvaldo Dalama, a then-43-year-old from Miramar, was riding with his 20-year-old niece, Sujey Vega, on the back. They went flying. Dalama's good friends, Miramar cop Raul Gomez and his wife, Yolanda, skidded off their bike. Thanks to their helmets, none of the bikers was killed. But all four were seriously hurt.

"Dominguez tried to tell the highway patrol he was on duty, but my friend says, 'Quit bullshitting us. I'm a cop too. You had no lights on, no jurisdiction — you were just driving like a maniac,' " Dalama says. "It's a good thing [Gomez] was there or I'm sure Dominguez would have lied his way out of it."

Last October, the City of Miami Beach settled a civil suit brought by the bikers and paid tens of thousands in taxpayer cash for their injuries. The exact dollar amount is confidential.

If the Miami Beach force punished Dominguez, there's no evidence in his internal affairs file. Neither Dominguez nor the department responded to New Times' request for comment.

Instead, he kept working — or in some cases not working. Dominguez has been reprimanded four times in recent years for abusing sick leave. In 2008 alone, he used 170 hours of sick time — all while earning $134.859.04 in tax dollars ($69,424 in salary, $56,370 in overtime, and $9,064 in premium pay).

The ultimate example of Miami Beach Police Department's coddling of its worst cops is 34-year-old former history teacher Adam Tavss, who was hired in 2006. In his first year on the force, another officer complained that Tavss had abused cocaine at a police Christmas party.

But he kept his job, and on June 14 last year, he shot to death tourist Husien Shehada outside Twist nightclub on Washington Avenue. Surveillance video shows Shehada raised his hands and turned toward Tavss just before the officer fired his gun. Tavss claimed Shehada had a weapon, but none was found on the scene.

Martinez says that Tavss was never dismissed following the cocaine complaint because he passed drug tests and that his return to duty after Shehada's shooting was consistent with the department's policy.

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1 comments
vienna221
vienna221

Two years later, in 2013, is this still true? Because my 8-yr-old son was violently kidnapped and believed murdered ... and I am still waiting for the US government - any agency, any level,  I'm not particular which - to find his body. And return it to me for burial. And to prosecute the killer. Especially when there are rumors all over the DC / Virginia / MD area, where the kidnap / killing occured, of at least one local law enforcement individual being involved; (police or FBI who assault and then are not found out for years, is not uncommon); when the original local police reports on the kidnap are "missing," etc. And so I wait day after day after day, as a grieving mother - and this is the worst grief  - for news of my little child. and for justice. and am told, there is not enough money. there are not enough "resources." the case is too "cold." 

If we are paying police more than we are paying the US Vice President, I expect them to be good enough to find a little boy's body. Even good enough to prevent our children from being slaughtered, to begin with. there should be no crime at all, at such salaries. Because I know that social workers and teachers are not making this much. and they are the ones interacting daily, with our children. and I know that when I stop - as a mother with very very little resources of her own, because i spend everything I can spare on my child's search - to help other families, standing under a bridge here in miami, for ex., with a baby with no shoes and no food and no diapers, in this heat and humidity all day ... that maybe those getting over $200k could be stopping, too. and yet these families tell me, that no one who looks like they can afford to stop, actually stops. 

So I just thought I would ask, as a mother, WHY you would pay so much to regular officers? when so many are going without. with little children. and there is so little dedicated to children's safety, or predator apprehension. and when many professions are in risk positions,  especially in fields like intelligence, and do not receive such salaries. I have said the same thing, so that I do not appear biased, as a federal contractor, about CEO salaries. Because it is a shame and dishonor to support companies, with tax relief and tax incentives, who then pay their executives several million. 

But I will tell you what one officer responded, when i went round a block recently, and asked him for help with a homeless person in a wheelchair - he said not to worry, that such people "want" to be homeless. I hope this officer was not one of those collecting over $200k. Perhaps if you dropped police salaries down to an even $150k, you could afford to collect less, in tickets? Or could afford to support homeless children more? or could afford to look for cold cases... when each "case" is really a suffering little child, screaming and begging for their mother - if we are to believe witnesses in my son's "cold case." 

I would expect every drunk, every drug dealer, every casino male, every worthless male criminal, to be shut up in a cage forever, if these are the salary levels, here in Miami. Because if police had done their jobs - or FBI - properly to begin with, my son would still be alive. 



 
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