Racism continues to rear its ugly head across the United States — including in interactions between members of minority communities and police officers. Former Florida police chief Raimundo Atesiano has been sentenced to three years in prison for an egregious string of conspiracies that saw his department purposefully frame innocent black men for unsolved crimes in his city, Biscayne Park.
Atesiano was convicted of charges of conspiracy to deprive the accused individuals — who included a 16-year-old boy — of their civil rights. The formal conviction did not cover the concurrent allegations of racism against Atesiano, considering all of those targeted were black.
The case built up against him as officers who’d worked under him confessed to their own roles in the crimes. A pair of officers ended up sentenced to maximum one year terms for falsifying the arrest affidavits for the aforementioned black teenager, who was wrongfully pinned as the perpetrator of a series of burglaries.
The teen was eventually exonerated after the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office zeroed in on the local police department’s utter lack of evidence, with concern sparked by repeated vague language across the documents associated with the case.
In addition to that case, a third former Biscayne Park officer pleaded guilty to falsifying arrest warrants for two men at the then-chief’s direction and has since been sentenced to two years and three months in prison. One of those targeted in the conspiracy, a man named Clarence Desrouleaux, was eventually deported to Haiti over the false allegations, although in the time since his trial — wherein he pleaded guilty — the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s office has dismissed his wrongful conviction.
The same officer who targeted Desrouleaux filed five arrest forms against Erasmus Banmah over a series of vehicle burglaries in the city in the face of absolutely no evidence that he had committed the crimes.
Investigations have made clear that command staff including Atesiano directed the false accusations. During a probe of the department conducted back in 2014, one officer explained the department’s modus operandi as:
‘If they have burglaries that are open cases that are not solved yet, if you see anybody black walking through our streets and they have somewhat of a record, arrest them so we can pin them for all the burglaries.’
The cop added that the methods were employed to keep the portion of solved burglary cases high — and Atesiano has blamed community leaders’ pressure to reach that point for the drastic steps his department took.
Miami-Dade Public Defender Carlos Martinez slammed the former officer:
‘He created a culture of corruption that has further eroded public trust in the criminal justice system. Just as appalling is the damage Atesiano has done to law-abiding, hardworking police officers and chiefs.’
The scandal flies in the face of those who would insist that racism is not a continued problem for members of minority communities in the United States. In this case, a number of black men were put on courses to have their lives forever altered because a police chief wanting to boost his numbers thought they’d be easy targets.
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