The Miami Community Police Benevolent Association said in November that Ortiz was mocking initiatives to hire more black officers, mandated for decades by a 1970s-era consent decree forced on the department by federal officials. The union told city officials on Friday that many black officers found the race designation switch offensive. Ortiz responded to those allegations Friday at a Miami City Commission meeting.
“I’m a black male,” Ortiz told the commissioners in an exchange Friday captured on camera. “Yes, I am. And I am not Hispanic. I was born in this country. That’s how I feel.”
The Miami Police Department and the police union did not immediately respond to requests for comment early Monday.
Ortiz, a former president of the Fraternal Order of Police in Miami from 2011 to 2017, has been a magnet for controversy. He was briefly suspended with pay in 2017 after a woman obtained a restraining order against him, the Miami New Times reported. A judge granted the order after the woman said Ortiz harassed her online by posting her cellphone number and falsely accusing her of drunkenly driving a boat. The woman said Ortiz followed her after she spoke to investigators at City Hall, staring as a police escort took her to a car. A union lawyer representing Ortiz called the woman’s allegations “nonsense” and said there was “absolutely no concern for her safety.”
The Miami police captain has also drawn heat for defending police involved in controversial shootings and insulting black boys and men killed by police. He boycotted Beyoncé for referencing the Black Panthers at the Super Bowl halftime show in 2016.
Ortiz has been the subject of a variety of complaints, at least six of which have been sustained by internal affairs. In November, an independent watchdog faulted Ortiz for abusing an off-duty work program and posting “derogatory language” on social media, the Miami Herald reported. Ortiz called the investigation a “witch hunt.” His career continued to flourish, and he was promoted to lieutenant in 2014 and captain in 2017.
When he announced to the city commissioners last week that he was a “black male,” Commissioner Keon Hardemon asked what Ortiz had marked on his first application to be a police officer in Miami.
“I think I put white male,” Ortiz said. “Listen, I know who I am.”
Commissioner Joe Carollo asked the next question.
“When did you have this coming-to-God moment that you were black?” he inquired. “When did God tell you that?”
Ortiz launched into an explanation about family lineage, making reference to the “one-drop rule,” an archaic theory with ties to American slavery that claimed any amount of African blood made a person black.
“I learned there are people in my family that are mixed and that are black,” 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 if you have one drop of black in you, you are considered black. You’re probably black, too."