A Miami police officer was arrested last week and accused of systematically targeting drivers, pulling them over and robbing them while they were in his custody.

Jose R. Acosta robbed at least five people, police said at a news conference on Monday, after the rookie officer was apprehended in a weeks-long sting operation by state and local law enforcement, fired and charged with armed theft and armed burglary.

“Instead of seeking to rid Miami of crime, he became a criminal himself,” Miami-Dade State’s Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle said. “These acts of public corruption make everyone, unfortunately, very cynical.”

 

The arrest comes as Miami police face other issues of public trust. A federal investigation into the department, prompted by a rash of police shootings several years ago, resulted in oversight by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Three other rookie cops were fired in December, the Miami Herald reported, after allegedly joking about using civilians as target practice.

Officials were quick to condemn Acosta, who joined the force in May — and to credit each other for quickly bringing the officer down after a driver complained about him last month.

“The victims were not aware at the time,” Deputy Police Chief Luis Cabrera said Monday. “They legitimately believed it was a traffic stop.”

Acosta would prowl for victims outside his patrol zone — into Miami’s upscale Wynwood arts district, police said.

“He was randomly running the vehicles he was stopping and obtaining information,” Cabrera said. “He had no probable cause.”

When asked, he declined to say on what grounds the officer would stop drivers. But when he did it again on Friday, Cabrera said, undercover officers were ready.

“He took the driver out of his vehicle and searched his pockets, removing his wallet and a bank envelope,” Cabrera said.

Then Acosta put the driver into the back of his squad car, Cabrera said, and emptied the wallet and envelope of $940.

Without reporting a thing to dispatch, he finally let the man go and continued his patrol, Cabrera said.

Later that night, the Miami Herald reported, Acosta allegedly took $1,250 from another car. That driver was an undercover agent, and Acosta was arrested.

Police said the officer admitted to stealing up to $6,000 over two months, according to the Herald.

They aren’t investigating any other officers, Cabrera said, but he asked for any other victims to come forward.

Fernandez Rundle, the state attorney, said Acosta may end up facing more serious charges once all the evidence is in.

“Using a police badge to commit crimes is intolerable,” she said.

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