Miami, FL – The Miami Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) is defending a Miami police sergeant who was suspended without pay following accusations that he desecrated Jewish scripture (video below).
Miami Police Sergeant Roberto Destephan, a 13-year veteran of the force, is also in the midst of a contentious battle to retain his seat as the FOP’s vice president, WPLG reported.
Attorney John Cunhill, a former Miami police officer who resigned in 2004 after refusing to submit to a drug test, released the video clip in recent days, but would not disclose the identify of his source, according to WPLG.
The video showed Sgt. Destephan as he tossed a wooden box engraved with the Star of David into the bed of a pickup truck, followed by a copy of the Tanakh, a Jewish prayer book.
“We don’t need this s--t either, man. This crap? F--k this,” he said in the video. “Taking out the trash, dawg.”
“I don’t know how you can watch that video and your soul not be touched, Cunhill told WPLG. “Once viewing the video, we were really disturbed.”
Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said the sergeant was suspended without pay shortly after the video was released, pending the outcome of an internal investigation.
"When you look at the video, what it appears is to be anti-Semitic speech and a desecration of the Torah," Chief Colina said.
The FOP subsequently released a statement calling the video a “heavily edited” clip intended to be “political blackmail.”
“Part of the video was taken years ago when the FOP union office was full of mold and termites,” the FOP said. “Various items including religious books and other miscellaneous items were discarded for health reasons.”
According to WPLG, the union headquarters was formerly a Jewish funeral home, and the books had been left behind decades earlier.
The FOP explained that the items were “contaminated due to the mold and termites,” so they were thrown away.
“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,” the union said. “The video that has been released has been edited and doesn’t capture the full and entire conversation.”
Prior to the video release, Sgt. Destephan received an anonymous email “threatening that the doctored video would be released to the media” if he didn’t immediately abandon his re-election campaign and resign from his position with the FOP, the union said.
“We do not condone any anti-religious rhetoric or blackmail and stand unified with our Brothers and Sisters who come from all religions,” the FOP statement read.
“While the created video appears to be distasteful and insensitive at first glance, we believe when the entire story is fully investigated the sinister motivations behind its creation will become obvious,” the union said.
Miami Police Union Treasurer Andrew Markowitz said he is Jewish, and that he and Sgt. Destephan have been friends and coworkers for over a decade, WPLG reported.
“I'm friends with him, spent time with him on work and off work,” Markowitz said. “Our families have spent time together. I've never heard him utter anti-Semitic remarks - nothing of that nature.”
The police union elections are scheduled to take place this week, according to the news outlet.
You can watch the clip in the video below: