The discovery of a hidden camera in the Miami Beach Police Department's internal affairs interview room has the police officers union crying foul and demanding an outside investigation.
Police Chief Carlos Noriega ordered the camera be removed after it was discovered by the Fraternal Order of Police earlier this month. It was installed in 2004 under previous Police Chief Donald DeLucca.
"It is worth noting that although such devices are not uncommon in interview rooms, Chief Noriega's position was that a covert camera did not belong in internal affairs and should be removed," Miami Beach police spokesman Detective Juan Sanchez wrote in an e-mail.
The camera, which had audio and video, was not attached to a recording device, according to a memo internal affairs Capt. James Hyde wrote to the chief. The one monitor to watch the interviews was in Hyde's office, the memo said.
It was not used to watch meetings between officers and their attorneys, the memo said.
FOP president Alex Bello is skeptical, saying the discovery raises serious concerns about whether there were violations of attorney/client privilege and the rights guaranteed to officers.
"It compromises their integrity," he said. "They say (the meetings) weren't monitored, but obviously I have doubts.''
Sanchez, the police department spokesman, said the camera was used to "randomly" monitor interviews for a number of reasons, including the safety of officers, training and to make sure questions for officers complied with the Officers Bill of Rights.
Also to "ensure the investigator's questions were appropriate as it related to civilians and witness officers," Sanchez wrote.
The union says that the camera should never have been there, even if it was only used to monitor witnesses and not private attorney client meetings.
"If they can observe it, then we should also be able to observe it," said Gene Gibbons, the FOP attorney. "They should be preserving and recording, and they weren't."
The department says there was no violation of the police officer's Bill of Rights.