Miami Police Capt. Ronald Papier Files Complaint Against Investigators Who Recommended His Firing

In one of his most high-profile moves during his brief stint as Miami Police Department (MPD) chief, Art Acevedo fired MPD power couple Ronald and Nerly Papier from their respective roles as deputy chief and commander in May of 2021.

Nearly a year later, Acevedo is out, the Papiers are back in — albeit at the lower rank of captain — and they’re apparently seeking retribution for what Ronald Papier calls a “fabricated investigation.”

In a previously unreported complaint to Miami’s Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP), an independent panel that investigates allegations of police misconduct, Ronald Papier alleges that then-chief Acevedo and two Internal Affairs (IA) investigators deliberately lied and violated his and his wife’s rights as police officers in order to “settle personal scores” and clean house at MPD. The complaint was filed on November 8, 2021, and forwarded to MPD the following day for the department to initiate an initial investigation.

“Chief Acevedo had already determined the termination and discipline prior to the case being completed. He did not care to verify any of the facts,” states Ronald Papier’s CIP complaint, which has been embedded at the end of this article. “Chief Acevedo was dead set on creating a false narrative surrounding the incident with the intent to discredit the Papiers and ruin their hard-earned professional reputations and end their careers.”

Though Acevedo was fired back in October, Ronald Papier argues in the November CIP complaint that the two investigators — Brandon Lanier and Wanda Jean Baptiste — who recommended his and his wife’s termination, lied in their inquiry.

“This is really against Lanier and Jean Baptiste who carried out whatever Acevedo wanted them to do,” Ronald Papier tells New Times. “There was no basis for our termination.”

Ronald Papier says the purpose of his CIP complaint isn’t to get his old rank back or to go after Acevedo, but to hold the two investigators accountable for stating false and misleading facts, one of the very violations both Papiers were found to have committed during the IA investigation.

“If the Miami Police Department is willing to falsify facts in a police investigation to persecute their employees in an administrative investigation, one must wonder what they are willing to do to a member of the public in a criminal investigation,” Ronald Papier states in the complaint.

Ronald Papier also alleges that Acevedo and the investigators violated Florida’s Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, which requires police departments to inform officers when they’re being investigated. He claims he was never told internal affairs was conducting an investigation.

“They advised him he was a witness in a complaint against Commander Nerly Papier for Improper Procedure and Misconduct. They did not advise him that he was the subject of an investigation, nor did they afford him an opportunity to review the statements they had taken in accordance with F.S.S. 112 Officer Bill of Rights,” his CIP complaint states.

Neither Lanier nor Jean Baptiste could not be reached for comment. The MPD did not return New Times‘ requests for comment on Monday.

The saga dates back to last spring, when Acevedo received an encrypted email sent by someone using the pseudonym “Bill Schahwartzman,” alleging that Nerly Papier had crashed an MPD vehicle while driving under the influence and called her husband to help cover up the accident on April 2, 2021. The email also alleged that Nerly Papier drove the vehicle to MPD headquarters with two tires blown out rather than reporting the crash immediately and leaving the car in place. Ronald Papier allegedly called Capt. Javier Ortiz — MPD’s most conflict-prone cop, and former Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) union president  — to have the vehicle towed under the false pretense that it had been vandalized.

The “Schahwartzman” email set off a dramatic series of events, as Acevedo — who’d only recently been sworn in as chief and had promised to rid the department of bad cops, told staffers, “You lie, you die” — suspended the Papiers with pay and signed off on an uncharacteristically swift IA investigation that recommended the pair’s firing.

When their inquiry concluded last May, IA investigators Lanier and Jean Baptiste wrote in a pair of MPD reprimand memos obtained by New Times (and embedded at the end of this story) that video showed pedestrians having to “jump out of the way” of the Nerly Papier’s vehicle.

That was a gratuitous overstatement, says Ronald Papier, who points to surveillance video aired on Local10 last October that shows his wife’s white, police-issued SUV briefly hitting a curb and then swerving back onto the road. In the video, pedestrians on the sidewalk appear to flinch, but it’s clear they weren’t in the vehicle’s immediate path.

The reprimand memos state that there was no evidence to corroborate Nerly Papier’s claim that she swerved onto the curb to avoid a dark SUV. But in his CIP complaint, Ronald Papier states that the angle of the surveillance video does not show the complete incident, only what happens after the car hit the curb.

In the reprimand memo filed against Ronald Papier, investigators alleged misconduct, citing the fact that he oversaw internal affairs at the time yet did not recuse himself from the investigation into an incident involving his wife.

“Between Friday April 2nd, 2021, and Monday April 5th, 2021, Deputy Chief Papier who over sees [sic] the Internal Affairs Section failed to recuse himself and failed to inform his superior and disclose a conflict of interest to Chief of Police Art Acevedo,” Jean-Baptiste wrote in Ronald Papier’s reprimand memo.

The reprimand memos state that both Papiers lied, in that their statements did not match up: Nerly Papier told investigators she’d told her husband that she “had two flat tires,” whereas Ronald Papier claimed she told him she “struck a curb resulting in two flat tires.” This purported discrepancy between the couple’s statements violated MPD’s departmental orders requiring officers to be truthful, investigators determined at the time.

“While providing his witness statement, his statement does not corroborate with the statement obtained from Commander Papier,” Jean Baptiste wrote in Ronald Papier’s reprimand. “Furthermore, during the investigation, no other information was obtained from either employee about their discussion of the accident between April 2nd, thru [sic] April 4th, and information disclosed and/or not reported about the accident to Chief Acevedo does not reconcile and is deemed to be untruthful by both individuals.”

After the IA investigation concluded, City Manager Art Noriega notified the couple in a pair of letters that they were terminated for making false statements and violating departmental orders, effective June 22, 2021.

Two months later, Lanier was promoted from lieutenant to commander and Acevedo hired his former assistant chief from Houston, Heather Morris, to fill Ronald Papier’s former position of deputy chief in Miami.

In November, after Acevedo was fired and then-interim Chief Manuel Morales was sworn in, Ronald Papier drafted his CIP complaint.

In January, the Papiers were reinstated.

According to CIP’s most recent agenda from March 15, internal affairs is still investigating Ronald Papier’s allegations against Lanier and Jean Baptiste. MPD has until May — or 180 days from the time they receive a complaint against an officer — to complete an investigation before the case automatically expires, according to Florida law.

Though the CIP has no authority to discipline officers, it can make recommendations to the police chief on cases of misconduct once an investigation is concluded.

Acevedo maintains that the investigation into the Papiers was proper and that the pair was guilty of misconduct.

“The case and evidence against Mr. and Mrs. Papier speak for itself,” Acevedo tells New Times. “The misconduct occurred immediately upon my arrival and the assertion of a vendetta is baseless and says a lot about the mindset of the persons making it.”

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