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Miami Beach's Troubled Police Force Pays Officers in the Six Figures

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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.

Just four days later, Tavss was back on the beat. And before his shift ended, he had killed 29-year-old Lawrence McCoy Jr. Tavss said McCoy — who allegedly stole a cab and drove the wrong way on the MacArthur Causeway — had brandished a gun. As with Shehada, no weapon was discovered at the scene.

The department stood behind Tavss until September, when a drug test showed pot in his system. In November, he resigned — and picked up a $17,242.46 payout courtesy of Beach taxpayers.

Lawyer John Contini has announced plans to sue the department over both the deaths. "Citizens and tourists ought to boycott Miami Beach for their own safety," Contini says. "You may hope police will protect you, but who will protect you from the police?"

One of the strangest and most disturbing stories to hit the Miami Beach Police Department unfolded just last week.

Richard Anastasi retired on December 6 after almost 14 years on the force as an officer. He left with a fully vested pension and a $23,776.54 payout for unused vacation and sick time, according to city records.

According to a criminal complaint from the FBI, Anastasi's recent trouble started just past midnight on March 11. The victim, an unnamed Russian man, went to an apartment building on West Avenue where he believed a package was waiting for him. Instead, Anastasi and an accomplice, 42-year-old Francisco Arias, forced him into a Jeep and sped away.

Over the course of the next week, they threatened to cut off the Russian man's testicles with a knife, beat him, pointed semi-automatic weapons with laser sights at his head and held pliers to his teeth, the FBI claims. They forced him to call his mom in Russia to wire money and took $1,000. At one point, Arias allegedly told the man that he was going to die and that they would "use him as fertilizer."

The pair demanded $100,000, and the victim tricked them into a meeting last Thursday at 14th Street and Collins Avenue — with the feds listening in. When Anastasi and Arias rolled up in a black SUV, the FBI swooped in for the arrest. Inside the SUV, they found a grab bag of kidnapping tools, from a shotgun and rifle to duct tape and flex handcuffs to fake police badges.

Anastasi admitted to the FBI that he'd impersonated a cop and tried to scare the victim, though he denied trying to extort money from him. He faces federal charges that could carry a life sentence.

In his 14 years as a cop, Anastasi had 17 complaints in his internal affairs files — seven of which were substantiated and resulted in reprimands or suspensions.


Harold Strickland couldn't believe what he was seeing in his old neighborhood.

It was just past 1 a.m. on a balmy Friday in March 2009, and the 45-year-old Denver native was walking to his hotel after leaving Twist, where he had caught up with friends he hadn't seen since moving to Los Angeles five years earlier.

As he headed north on Michigan Avenue past Flamingo Park, Strickland noticed a couple of men kissing in a halogen-lit parking lot.

Then, suddenly, one of the men began to sprint north. Two plainclothes cops dashed after him. Half a block later, one officer tackled the runner to the asphalt and pinned his arms.

The slower cop approached, still running, and kicked the prone man's head like a football. Over the next six minutes and 50 seconds — a time lapse captured on tape after Strickland dialed 911 — the two officers punched and kicked the young man while berating him.

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Tim Elfrink is an award-winning investigative reporter, the managing editor of the Miami New Times and the co-author of "Blood Sport: Alex Rodriguez and the Quest to End Baseball's Steroid Era." Since 2008, he's written in-depth pieces on police corruption, fatal shootings and social justice issues across South Florida. He's won the George Polk Award and has been a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink