A Miami Police Sgt. was suspended after a video went viral last week in which he is seen tossing Jewish religious books onto the bed of a pickup truck, while using an expletive to describe it, Local 10 News reported.
Sgt. Roberto Destephan, the vice president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, is seen holding the two clearly identifiable Seforim, including a Tanach, before tossing them onto the truck.
“Taking out the trash, dawg” he remarked. He even turned the camera around to record his face.
Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said Destephan, who has been with the department for about 13 years, was suspended with pay pending an internal affairs’ investigation.
“When you look at the video, what it appears is to be anti-Semitic speech and a desecration of the Torah,” Colina said.
Brickell attorneys John and Andrea Cunill obtained the footage from an unnamed source, and released it to Local 10 News.
“I don’t know how you can watch that video and your soul not be touched,” said John Cunill, who focuses on municipal law with an emphasis on contract disputes. “Once viewing the video, we were really disturbed.”
The Miami Fraternal Order of Police released a statement saying the “heavily edited” and “doctored” video was several years old, and released as political “blackmail” to stop Destephan’s re-election campaign within the union.
Destephan and union President Ed Lugo are running against brothers Tommy and Matt Reyes.
In recent days, people have posted negative campaign ads about Destephan and Lugo on Instagram, signaling a contentious race.
The union’s statement also said the video was shot while Destephan was cleaning the union office and “the books were contaminated due to the mold and termites and needed to be discarded into the trash.”
The union headquarters had been a Jewish funeral home decades before and the books had been left behind.
Meanwhile, friends and colleagues have defended Destephan and say he is not anti-Semitic.
Miami Police Union Treasurer Andrew Markowitz, who is Jewish, has been Destephan’s friend and colleague more than a decade.
“I’m friends with him, spent time with him on work and off work. Our families have spent time together. I’ve never heard him utter anti-Semitic remarks – nothing of that nature,” Markowitz said.
Markowitz thinks the video was a joke gone wrong.
But an online message board for Miami officers simmered with language that often overlooked Destephan’s speech in the video. Anonymous posters speculated that everyone from Destephan’s competitors to Chief Colina and city officials were behind the video’s release.
There were some dissenters, however.
“No matter how the attorneys spin the story now to defend this moron, it’s another black eye to the department and union,” one anonymous commenter said.
(Nat Golden – YWN)