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GPS Trackers Installed in Miami Beach City Vehicles, But Cops Refuse to Turn Them On

Categories: News
Thumbnail image for miamibeachpolice.jpg
via Random Pixels
Miami Beach cop cars have been equipped with GPS trackers, but the devices aren't being monitored.
It's a logic problem from hell. If GPS trackers are put on cop cars to make sure officers don't go where they don't belong while on duty, but the technology is never actually turned on, does it really exist?

It does if taxpayers have already spent more than a half-million bucks on the program.

That's exactly what's happened in Miami Beach, where more than 350 city vehicles -- including cop cars and fire trucks -- have been outfitted with automated vehicle locators (AVLs) at a cost of more than $500,000. But in police cruisers, they haven't been turned on yet because cops worry the devices could put them in danger.

See also:
- Allegedly Drunk, Joyriding Miami Beach Cop on ATV Runs Over Beachgoers

The idea for the AVLs began four years ago, when residents complained about a city car "parked under a tree all day long," says Miami Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin. Tobin hoped GPS data would help better allocate resources. When the commission approved the idea in December 2010, there wasn't much debate.

But as the city began installing the devices, MBPD suffered a rash of scandals. On July 2, 2011, Officer Derick Kuilan popped by the Clevelander and then drunkenly ran his department-issued ATV over two beachgoers. Kuilan wasn't the only AWOL cop: His partner was with him at the bar, and their supervisor had headed home early for an off-duty gig.

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The incident gave urgency to keeping better track of cops. Days before the accident, city commissioners had approved $268,220 to install the AVLs. Later they green-lighted an additional $193,000. (It's not clear how much the police trackers alone cost; a city spokeswoman didn't respond to questions from Riptide.)

Yet for police, the program has effectively been shelved because cops fear the devices could expose the home addresses of officers with take-home vehicles.

"Anybody could go in and ask for the records," says Sgt. Alex Bello, head of Miami Beach's Fraternal Order of Police. "You could obviously have a subject you charged with a crime finding out where you live and taking action or doing something crazy."

Bello says state law is supposed to protect such information from becoming public. Unless the AVLs are turned off when cops take their cars home, he says criminals could compile a master list of cop's addresses and work shifts. They could sell that list or use it to simply break into officers' homes and steal their weapons, he says.

ATV cops.JPG
State Attorney's Office
Miami Beach cop Derick Kuilan, right, parties at The Clevelander before his ATV crash
But Bello isn't just worried about criminals. He is still waiting for reassurances that the private company that collects the AVL data will be properly vetted.

"There should be some safeguards that this company should have to follow to make sure that people with access to this data can be trusted," he said.

Tobin, meanwhile, says he isn't sure why a compromise -- like letting cops turn off the AVLs when they are off the clock -- hasn't yet been reached.

"If I'm trusting them to make decisions that could take someone's liberties away and put somebody in prison for life, I should be able to trust them to do the right thing with a city car," he says.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes. Follow this journalist on Twitter @MikeMillerMiami.

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14 comments
Decent_American
Decent_American

Why are the police allowed to take their police cars home? This isn't Mayberry! This is an INSANE waste of  government resources. While we're at it, I don't think the MBPD should be allowed to carry guns when we consider their juvenile and often times felonious behavior. 

James21
James21

Hmmmmm......let's see. A take home car has a license plate which criminals could track too. Most police vechiles are boldly marked (or at least numbered too). Seems like a criminal could follow such a marked car too. Moreover, local criminals can see which house a police car is parked at or near and case the house to steal a gun. Yes, the access to such records would make it easy for some grand scheme SOOOO make such data private and/or disable the GPS when officially off the clock.... Easy easy. What gives ... crooked cops????

Phil Ramirez
Phil Ramirez

"...they REFUSE to turn them on"?!?! is that what I just read?

Carolina Rendon
Carolina Rendon

they just don't want to get caught having their cafesito and chatting away while i get threatened and followed home by some asshole. Oh, but if u cross a yellow they make sure they let you know " you didint quite make that yellow did you"

Lowphat McPhatty
Lowphat McPhatty

because miami beach cops dont want to get caught fucking hookers while on the clock.

Lucy Skipp Craft
Lucy Skipp Craft

Do they forget who pays their salery? So much corruption, then you call them when you need them and they're rude and act like you're wasting their time. We have a right to know when they're abusing their position. Please, give me a break.

Sergio Rivas
Sergio Rivas

but you're there to protect and serve, so what is there to worry about? dirty past? dirty filthy past..

James G. Camp
James G. Camp

I don't know so much that this can't be an installed component of the computer system of any car ? I mean how tough would it be to install one on the notebook that's in every cruiser ? They already have dash cams ? At every boot up, it turns on, just like a modem, just like bt, just like a cell phone device. I just have a gut instinct, for certain individuals. any audit would be fixed for compliance ? Yet for others, it's a tool to weed out people before they qualify for retirement and draw against those benefits.

Seán Schauseil
Seán Schauseil

Bullshit. They are more worried about getting caught! Anybody else think it might be a good idea to have three times the sentancing for public officials?

Frank Castle
Frank Castle

They should do this in all the cop agency's to keep track of those losers

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