Three days before Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo was officially sworn in, he drew a line in the sand to the city’s command staff: “You lie, You die,” warned the incoming chief, suggesting changes were coming within the department.
That same morning, Nerly Papier, one of the city’s top-ranked female police officers, a cop who grew up in the department working her way from a job as a temp to become Little Havana NET commander, hit a curb with her city-issued SUV. She blew out two tires, then continued to drive the vehicle, damaging its rims on her way to the office.
Now, Papier and her husband Ronald Papier, the city’s deputy chief and acting chief for two months during the transition to Acevedo, are fighting to hang onto their their jobs. The couple were suspended two weeks after Acevedo’s swearing in on April 2. By the middle of May, an Internal Affairs investigation recommended they be fired for not following the proper chain of command after the SUV accident.
And despite the city refusing to say if any others were punished for alleged involvement in Nerly Papier’s crash, the Miami Herald has learned that seven other officers — almost everyone who had anything to do with the accident and its aftermath — have received written reprimands.
The city has also refused public records requests for information or any paperwork involving the move to terminate the Papiers, including copies of recommended terminations from an Internal Affairs investigation that the city has spoken about publicly.
Still, the Miami Herald has learned that the recommended ouster of Nerly Papier by Internal Affairs stems from actions she took during and after the incident and her explanation of what occurred, which investigators say didn’t jibe with their findings.
Why her husband is on the chopping block, remains unclear. After assuming office, Acevedo expressed a desire for Internal Affairs to report directly to him. Before his suspension, that had been Papier’s job for most of the past decade.
In Nerly Papier’s letter of reprimand from Internal Affairs, investigators determined she fudged the truth on several occasions, never acknowledged that there were pedestrians on the sidewalk when her SUV rode over the curb and did not mention she ran two red lights on her way to the station after the accident. The report also says that Nerly Papier told the commander in charge of property that she had two flat tires and never mentioned she was in an accident.
The document also mentions Acevedo’s April 2 statement to staff about truthfulness and says the commander’s “poor sound judgment” limits her ability to “function as an effective commander.”
Acevedo’s statement was “a clear warning to all staff members and subordinate officers that dishonesty and poor judgment in policing will not be tolerated under his administration,” the investigating officer wrote in the recommendation for discipline note. “Chief Acevedo further notified all persons present, including Commander Papier, that if he discovers any of his officers violate a sacred trust, a community standard, or betrays the MPD badge, their careers are at stake.”
The Herald has not been able to obtain the Internal Affairs document recommending the firing of Deputy Chief Ronald Papier.
Miami’s highest-ranking police couple have hired Fraternal Order of Police Attorney Eugene Gibbons to represent them. Gibbons is demanding the city heed a request for the Papier’s to remain on the force, but as captains. It would allow them to retain most or all of their benefits at reduced salaries.
Gibbons said the couple have had remarkable careers with no history of disciplinary action. He wouldn’t go into detail of claims against the deputy chief, but said Nerly Papier informed everyone in her chain of command about the incident, including senior officers.
“It’s quite obvious the chief doesn’t want them in his upper echelon,” Gibbons said. “It’s absolute nonsense what they’re being accused of.”
Earlier this week, the city’s Civil Service Board agreed to a hearing in which the couple will argue for the right to remain with the department, but as captains. They were scheduled to go before police department disciplinary review board on Friday, a hearing Gibbons said he takes issue with because it is currently composed of Acevedo appointees.
“These allegations are outlandish and not supported,” Gibbons said.
Acevedo, reached by phone Friday, didn’t want to comment on the case before reading the report from the disciplinary review panel. He said he expects to reach a decision on the Papiers by next week.