UPDATE: Miami Police Officer Charged; Police Union Defends Officer, Says He “Showed Great Restraint”

The Miami police officer who was caught on video kicking a face-down, handcuffed man in the head has been charged with misdemeanor assault. Furthermore, according to the Miami New Times, the department also plans to fire the officer.

However, one of Miami’s two police unions released a statement defending Officer Mario Figueroa and stating “no violation of departmental policy” occurred.

The statement is titled “Mario Figueroa is Being Used as a Scapegoat.”

Read the full statement here and below (emphasis is mine):

It is unfortunate that because of social media, Officer Figueroa has been found guilty by some in the public without the proper due process afforded to anyone accused. Because of political pressure, Officer Figueroa is being charged with a simple assault. There is no doubt that Officer Figueroa will be exonerated.

While some have characterized this as police brutality, it couldn’t be farther from the truth. The only thing brutal about this entire incident is the suspect that endangered the lives of the community in which our Miami Police Officers risked their lives to take this dangerous man off the streets. From the onset, the media stated that Officer Figueroa had kicked the suspect on the head.

The Fraternal Order of Police took the high road and made no statements in anticipation of the bodycam video being released clearly proving that even the suspect himself stated that he wasn’t kicked. Officer Figueroa voluntarily stated that he was attempting to get the suspect to comply. Miami Police Officers are trained to use defensive tactics as well as de-escalate the amount of force necessary to get a suspect to comply. Officer Figueroa was involved in a high speed car chase with a suspected robber that then turned into an all out foot chase through a residential neighborhood. Officer Figueroa used great restraint and deescalated his use of force once he approached the suspect.

There is clearly a difference in opinion between the FOP and the Miami Police Department in regards to a violation of policy in this incident. There is absolutely no violation of departmental policy. Our use of force guidelines state that a report of force must be performed if a Miami Police Officer strikes, kicks, punches or utilizes their intermediate weapons. Or, if there is a complaint and sign of injury. As viewed on the suspect’s mugshot, there isn’t a scratch on him. Since Officer Figueroa never kicked the suspect and simply gestured to make him comply, no use of force report is warranted.

The Fraternal Order of Police has all the confidence in the criminal justice system as well as our due process rights that Officer Figueroa will be vindicated.

The statement is signed by Edward Lugo, who became president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 20 in October 2017 and who also has his own controversial history, including being caught in a 2009 FBI investigation and being recommended for termination:

According to documents and audio recordings first published by local blogger Al Crespo, Miami PD’s internal affairs unit made the extraordinary recommendation that Lugo be fired in 2009 after undercover FBI agents wearing recording devices pitched him on a plan to traffic stolen goods through Miami. Lugo allegedly looked the other way and didn’t alert the department that cops were ostensibly trying to ship stolen goods on the side. He kept his job only after [former Miami police union president Javier] Ortiz used his power as then-FOP head to intervene on his pal’s behalf. Lugo also has a long record of use-of-force complaints.

The Miami New Times also points out the Miami’s police unions have a past history of covering up or playing down mistakes by police officers:

When North Miami Police Officer Jonathan Aledda shot the unarmed Charles Kinsey, who was trying to help a man with autism, former PBA President John Rivera excused the shooting by claiming Aledda was aiming for the autistic man (who was also unarmed). Rivera also referred to Aledda as a “hero” despite the fact that he nearly killed a citizen who had done absolutely nothing wrong. (Aledda was later charged with multiple felonies.)

Everything about this situation is unbelievable and corrupt — from the kick itself to the police report, to the police unions’ statements, to the history of the police union.

There is video evidence of Figueroa taking a running start to try to kick a defenseless and handcuffed man in the head while the man was already being restrained by another police officer.

Does Lugo believe that, because Figueroa, fortunately, appears to have missed, his behavior is acceptable or any less dangerous?

Did the police officer(s) who witnessed this occur make any honest attempt at all to report what they saw?

What would have happened if the kick hadn’t been caught on camera?

It is beyond disturbing and worrisome that the people charged with upholding the law would conduct themselves in such a manner.