Much has been written in recent years about police culture. Reference.com defines this term as “a type of organizational culture that contains unwritten roles and social codes that dictate the way that a person within the culture will function, as well as building a strong sense of solidarity among the group and a will to conform. Police culture deals specifically with the behavior of officers within the force.”
Government officials are understandably concerned when a police department’s members display a propensity toward excessive use of force. In order to resolve this problem, the Harvard Business Review suggests “introducing community policing; training officers in de-escalation skills and the use of non-lethal tactics; increasing the diversity of departments; improving data collection and public transparency; and enhancing the screening of police recruits.”
Police brutality, however, is only one symptom of a dysfunctional police culture within a department. With very few exceptions, the North Miami Police Department has not been plagued by incidents of police brutality, but its culture has certainly been tainted for decades by the existence of the self-titled “Illuminati.” The indisputable leader of the NMPD’s “Illuminati” is Assistant Chief Larry Juriga.
Created in the image of secret societies such as the Freemasons (and, in fact, taking its name from a Freemasons splinter group), the “Illuminati” have held tight reign over the entire organization, including departmental appointments and promotions.
Until 2002, when Gwendolyn Boyd was appointed as the city’s first black female Chief of Police, “Illuminati” members were quite open about their affiliation. When Chief Boyd tried to disband the clique of mostly white officers, they simply went underground, where they continued exerting their influence behind the scenes, secretly undermining the new Chief’s leadership and her appointments. They even went so far to file a lawsuit alleging discrimination when she promoted a black officer, Stephen Johnson, two ranks up from Sergeant to Commander.
Interestingly, Larry Juriga did not join in that lawsuit because, as we’ve already mentioned, in order to defend the charges of discrimination, Chief Boyd had to find a white cop to promote. So, despite the fact that Larry Juriga had failed the Lieutenant’s exam, she quickly “promoted then-Sergeant Juriga two ranks to Major, over an entire class of lieutenants who were not even considered for promotion, some of whom had been patiently waiting their turn for years.”
Not surprisingly, those same officers who sued for discrimination when a black cop was promoted two ranks up, had no problem when a white cop received the same unfair advantage.
When Stephen Johnson was promoted to Police Chief in 2010, instead of going outside the department, he promoted Juriga to be his Assistant Chief, who wasted no time wielding the power that came with that position.
As soon as “Master Mason” Larry Juriga was installed as second in command, the “Illuminati” were able to clandestinely control the entire police department. Chief Johnson’s successors, Marc Elias and Leonard Burgess, were but mere figureheads of a department that was being run covertly by NMPD’s secret society. A police culture of unethical behavior, and outright corruption, began to permeate throughout the department.
In the past few years, there has been a lot of discussion among government officials and police administrators about the need to change police culture in their municipalities. Elected officials who ran on platforms of transparency and accountability tend to ignore the ongoing problems within their police departments once they are elected because changing the culture is a daunting task.
A May 15, 2016 article in Government.com, The Culture of Management That Police Departments Need, assigns the responsibility for reform squarely on the shoulders of the management of a department. The author posits:
“Let us start with the fundamental, core issue, which is the quality of police services. Law enforcement is arguably the most basic function of government. It is impossible to have a decent society without decent police services. So what is to be done when law enforcement is not decent.
The answer is clear: New management is required. Management that will develop and insist on professionalism from top to bottom. Management that understands that different communities and neighborhoods have different needs. Management that is willing to confront performance shortcomings. Management that is willing to own up to failures as well as successes.”
When Gary Eugene was appointed as the North Miami Police Chief, he knew he was up against an ingrained culture of corruption among the ranks. In order to change that culture, he appointed members to his command staff that were never part of the insidious “Illuminati.” This was a good start, but it was only the beginning of what he had planned to be an entire overhaul of the organizational structure of the police department.
As fate would have it, six days after the Chief and his new appointees were sworn in, the NMPD faced the biggest crisis in its history. The department made international headlines when Police Officer Jonathan Aledda shot an unarmed black man at a time when police departments all over the country were being scrutinized for incidents of systemic racism and police brutality.
After a months-long investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Miami State Attorney’s Office, Officer Aledda was arrested and charged with a felony count of attempted manslaughter and a misdemeanor of culpable negligence.
In a police department with a healthy and ethical culture, this would have been the end of the story.
But in the North Miami Police Department, where deep-rooted corruption has been allowed to fester unchecked for too long, the arrest of one of their own only added fuel to the fire.
Immediately after the shooting, Assistant Chief Larry Juriga and his fellow “Illuminati” member, Commander Angel Rivera, devised a plan to protect Officer Aledda by falsely blaming one of Chief Eugene’s newest appointees, Commander Emile Hollant. First, Juriga told the Chief that Hollant gave “conflicting information” when he was questioned by police investigators. Then, Rivera attempted to coerce Hollant to lie to investigators about what he actually did witness. And finally, despite being told to stand down by Chief Eugene, they filed a complaint with the State Attorney’s Office against Hollant when he refused to maintain the blue wall of silence.
Although Hollant was immediately cleared of all wrongdoing by the SAO, not once, but twice, he is now inexplicably facing an Internal Affairs investigation. Even more ridiculous, he has still not been allowed to return to work.
And all of the Commander’s problems are due to the dysfunctional culture intrinsic to the NMPD, which has allowed the insidious “Illuminati” to flourish unchecked.
So far, all of Chief Gary Eugene’s efforts to change the culture of his police department have encountered road blocks. In the days after the shooting, when he learned that Assistant Chief Larry Juriga lied to him, the Chief immediately wanted to fire him. The “Illuminati’s” useful idiot, Deputy Manager Arthur Sorey jumped in to intervene on Juriga’s behalf, which tied the Chief’s hands, thereby stifling a perfect opportunity to change the culture of the NMPD.
An article from the Harvard Business Review describes to a tee how this scenario prevents needed reform of police culture.
According to an August 19, 2016 article, The Organizational Reasons Police Departments Don’t Change, while “rogue cops” are often blamed for problems within the department, when abusive behavior is not addressed and curtailed, “the organizational message being conveyed, whether or not explicit, is that some level of abusive behavior is okay.”
To make matters worse, this dysfunctional police culture becomes a vicious cycle when “new recruits soon buy into the older model of aggressive, authoritative policing exhibited by old-timers on the force.”
“In policing organizations, assumptions that derive from the culture are often passed along through more experienced officers, who effectively show new hires “how it’s done around here.” Although discretionary decision making is an integral part of policing, the individual’s behaviors and responses in discretionary action will slowly adjust to meet the expectations of the organization itself.”
The article also lists nine warning signs “which may require a review of the values of the policing entity and, in some cases, the local government itself.”
The most critical sign is the organization’s “failure to adequately address ethical violations.”
“In his classic 2005 article in The Princeton Review, “The Cognitive and Social Psychology of Contagious Organizational Corruption,” author John Darley makes two important points about where organizations go wrong. First, he subscribes to the “bad barrel” theory, not the “bad apple theory.”
Policing agencies rightly spend much time looking at the backgrounds of their potential employees, but even good people placed in bad situations can do wrong, especially when such actions go unpunished or are accepted. Darley says that when organizations fail to adequately address ethical violations, others are more likely to perform the same actions.
What is tolerated is repeated, a process he describes as “entrainment.” Before long, an ethical organization can turn into a corrupt one.”
Another warning sign is the “absence of leadership focus and insistence on ethical behaviors.”
“Defining the culture does not happen overnight, but a focus on ethical actions and public service must come from the top and be consistent.
Empowering employees, providing consistent supervision and discipline, and supporting employees through mentorship are key actions for organizations that desire to build an ethical culture. When managers complain about the cost or time away from work for ethics training, so will the employees. When leaders tacitly accept or ignore even covert prejudice, such attitudes may spread. [Authors Terrance Johnson and Raymond Cox in a 2004 article published in Public Integrity] explain that “[t]he culture of being above the law ends only when leaders enforce rules against corrupt behavior and then recognize right behavior.”
The virulent strain of corruption that has been infecting the culture of the North Miami Police Department for decades will continue to thrive unless city leaders and elected officials immediately address the dangerous pattern of abuse perpetrated by Assistant Chief Larry Juriga, Commander Angel Rivera and other members of the “Illuminati.” Reform will never be possible if management refuses to recognize the warning signs and fails to take drastic action.
Police Chief Gary Eugene knows very well what he must do in order to eradicate the corruption within his organization. The “bad apples” of the NMPD must be held accountable for their serious infractions, including lying, insubordination and witness tampering, among others.
This is a critical first step, not only for the morale, or culture if you will, of the officers currently on the force, but especially to set an example for the recruits that are being sworn in on an almost weekly basis. The new generation of North Miami Police Officers must be shown that unethical and corrupt behavior will never be tolerated.
City Manager Larry Spring needs to stop micromanaging the police department and defer to Chief Gary Eugene’s decision making and leadership.
If ever there was a time the Mayor and Council of North Miami need to step up and demand the transparency and accountability they promised when they ran for office, it is now.
North Miami residents deserve better.