The Slatest

Miami Police Captain Who Once Called Tamir Rice a “Thug” Defends Decision to Claim to Be Black

Javier Ortiz smiles.
Javier Ortiz speaks during an interview with the Associated Press on 2012 in Miami. Wilfredo Lee/AP

A Miami police officer who as leader of the city’s police union defended officers involved in high-profile shootings of unarmed black men has angered the black police officers in his department with claims that he now identifies as black himself.

The officer, Capt. Javier Ortiz, was accused in November of claiming to be black when he applied for a promotion. The Miami-Dade chapter of the NAACP and the union that represents black police officers in the department both criticized Ortiz for his racial insensitivity and disdain for efforts to improve diversity.

At a meeting of the Miami City Commission on Friday, Ortiz defended his decision to twice list his race as black on a form to request a promotion. According to the Miami New Times, the black officers’ union unearthed documents last year that showed that Ortiz, who self-identified as a white Hispanic man when he first applied to be a police officer, had claimed to be black on forms in 2014 and 2017.

At the meeting, Ortiz was asked when he realized he was black.

“Well, I learned that there are people in my family that are mixed and that are black,” Ortiz said. When a commissioner protested talk of “the degree of blackness,” Ortiz was quick to clarify that he wasn’t claiming equal blackness.

“Oh, no, you’re blacker than me—that’s obvious,” Ortiz said. “And if you know anything about the one-drop rule, which started in the 20th Century, which is what identifies and defines what a black male is, or a Negro, you would know that if you have one drop of black in you, you’re considered black.”

Ortiz then claimed he was also part Jewish. Another commissioner chimed in: “Mr. Ortiz claimed that he was, uh, black,” he said. “I’m afraid maybe next month he’d be a black Jewish woman. I don’t know.”

When the news was reported Friday, Ortiz tweeted: “This isn’t news. People love making stereotypes. It’s actually refreshing to be who you are, like an American.” Later he complained reporters were focusing on the wrong thing. He asked one reporter to “change your headline to say the truth from the get go: ‘BIGGEST Number of Black Staff Members Promoted in MPD history since 1896.’ ”

Ortiz was president of the city’s police union from 2011 to 2017. As head of the union, Ortiz, a vocal Trump supporter, often spoke out in defense of police officers who shot unarmed black people, according to the New Times, which described Ortiz as “the most controversial and well-known cop in Miami.” He once called 12-year-old Tamir Rice a “thug” and argued that other prominent killings in the news were “justified.” He was criticized for editing an image of a black suspect to have red demonic eyes. He tried to start a boycott of Beyonce after she referenced the Black Panthers in a Super Bowl performance. He directed his supporters to a “We Support Darren Wilson” Facebook page that spread false news and racist discussions about the killing of Michael Brown. He has been accused twice of falsely arresting black NFL players, and he has been accused multiple times of racial profiling.

But while Ortiz avoided any repercussions for actions related to race, he finally ran into trouble over allegations of harassment. In 2017, a woman obtained a restraining order against Ortiz after claiming that he had posted her phone number online after she’d criticized police. He was briefly suspended with pay. He has more recently come under scrutiny for working more off-duty hours than allowed. He has also come under fire for taking selfies with people he arrests, and he has been accused of using excessive force at least 18 times, according to the New Times.

According to the Miami Times, city officials are discussing Ortiz’s more recent comments and the possibility of his firing. The black officers’ union also demanded that Ortiz be punished and that the police chief either resign or address the racism in his department.