Keandra Simmons, a Black Miami officer who filed a complaint after being demoted from a major to a lieutenant, said she continues to be harassed by the senior officer named in her complaints, according to the Miami Herald.
Simmons’ attorney, Michael Pizzi, said other officers were able to listen in over police radio airwaves last week when a confrontation unfolded between Capt. Javier Ortiz and Simmons. The officers were responding to a fire. Pizzi said the rest of the dispute took place in the office of his client’s commanding officer, Ernie Sierra.
According to Pizzi, Sierra sat idly and listened as Simmons was scolded by Ortiz, who outranks the lieutenant, but isn’t in her direct chain of command. The captain was upset because the lieutenant allegedly questioned an order.
Pizzi wrote a letter to city leaders and Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo last week, demanding the city to “cease and desist the outrageous retaliatory act of permitting Capt. [Javier] Ortiz to continue to harass the very person who has complained about him.”
Ortiz, the former president of the police department’s Fraternal Order of Police, has faced multiple use-of-force complaints from minorities throughout his career. He was also suspended for a year after being accused of making racist remarks.
Simmons, who emerged as one of the highest-ranking Black female officers in the department, was one of four majors in the city demoted by Chief Acevedo in August. The officer issued a complaint after being demoted, saying she was targeted because she did not support the termination of acting Chief Ron Papier and his wife, Cmdr. Nerly Papier.
According to the Herald, the couple was fired in May for an incident related to a patrol vehicle accident involving Nerly Papier.
Simmons, according to her attorney, gave a statement during an internal affairs investigation into the couple and consequently faced retaliation from the department. Ortiz, who was under the command of Simmons in the traffic unit at the time, sent a memo to Acevedo, saying he was conducting an investigation into Nerly Papier’s accident.
After filing a whistleblower complaint with the city’s Civil Service Board, Simmons also filed a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, saying she was a target of racial and gender discrimination.
“For Chief Acevedo to come here and immediately demote and punish for no reason whatsoever the second highest ranking Black female in department history, that is not a way to heal this community,” Pizzi told NBC Miami.