National News

Miami Police Sergeant Suspended After Video Shows Him Tossing a Jewish Holy Book

Posted December 1, 2018 12:53 p.m. EST

A police sergeant in Miami was suspended on Friday after a video emerged in which he could be seen tossing a Jewish holy book into the back of a pickup truck and calling it “crap.”

In the 12-second clip, which was reported on by WPLG-10, a local news station, the sergeant, who appeared to be recording himself, could be seen holding a Tanakh, a Jewish holy book, and a wooden box engraved with the Star of David.

“We don’t need this either, man,” the sergeant said, including an expletive as he tossed both items into the bed of a red pickup truck. “Taking out the trash, dog,” he said.

It was unclear when the video was filmed.

In a statement on Friday, the chief of the Miami Police Department called the video “disturbing” and said the sergeant had been suspended and an internal affairs investigation was underway.

“The actions of this employee were found to be inconsistent with the mission and values of our department,” Chief Jorge R. Colina said. “I would like to reassure our citizens of all faiths that we stand in solidarity with them.”

In a statement on Friday, the Miami Fraternal Order of Police identified the sergeant as Roberto Destephan, its vice president. It said the video was “heavily edited” and that “the motive here appears to be political blackmail.”

In the video, Destephan appeared to be standing in the doorway of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police.

John Cunill, a lawyer whose firm has represented Miami police officers and city officials, said he brought the video to the attention of WPLG, the local news station, “days ago.” He would not say how he obtained the footage.

“It was shocking,” Cunill said. “I think that during these times, we should be able to look to the officers — and he’s a sergeant — as the ones who are calming things in the community.”

In its statement, the Miami Fraternal Order of Police said part of the video was taken years ago when the union’s office had mold and termites, and items were being discarded for health reasons.

“The books were contaminated due to the mold and termites,” the statement said.

“While Roberto was discarding the items into the back of a pickup truck to go to the dump, a portion of his conversation was recorded,” it added. “The video that has been released has been edited and doesn’t capture the full and entire conversation.”

Cunill said the sergeant’s speech in the video spoke for itself. “There is no need for this vulgarity and profanity and the tirade that goes along with taking out supposedly moldy trash,” he said.

Neither Destephan nor the fraternal order of police lodge responded to requests for comment on Friday evening.