Mmiguel_exposito.jpgIAMI (AP) _ Miami's police chief was suspended Tuesday and could permanently lose his job, an escalation in a series of disputes between the chief and other senior city officials.


The city manager, Johnny Martinez, relieved Chief Miguel Exposito of his duties following a morning meeting and appointed an interim chief to lead the 1,100-officer Miami Police Department. Exposito, who was suspended with pay, could be fired by the City Commission in a matter of days.

Exposito has been with the department since 1974 and chief since November 2009. In recent months, however, he has been criticized for a series of fatal police shootings of African-American suspects and has become embroiled in a high-profile spat with Mayor Tomas Regalado over raids on video gaming parlors.

None of that was mentioned in an e-mail memo from Martinez to the chief. Instead, Martinez said Exposito failed to take steps as directed to reduce overtime and continued with plans to strip three police officials of key responsibilities despite orders to postpone that.

“I have taken this action because you have failed to obey my orders and have taken other actions that indicate just and reasonable cause to demonstrate that you cannot properly perform your duties as the Chief of Police,'' Martinez said in the memo.

Neither Exposito nor his attorney responded immediately Tuesday to e-mails seeking comment. Exposito has previously contended he is the victim of a political witch hunt because of his complaints to federal officials that Regalado is interfering in the video gaming probes, which the mayor has denied.

The City Commission must meet within five days of Exposito's suspension to determine whether the chief should be removed permanently. Exposito would be given a chance at the meeting to defend himself against the charges.

In other e-mails released Tuesday, Exposito complained sharply about restrictions the manager imposed on his personnel decisions. “Obviously, this is not the optimal way to run any organization,'' the chief wrote to Martinez in early August.

On the overtime issue, Exposito said in another email that the costs were mainly due to a 54-officer reduction compared with the year before. A proposal to curb overtime, the chief added, might save money but that would be “disregarding its effect on crime or officer safety, something I see as a priority.''

Replacing Exposito for now is a 31-year veteran of the police department, Maj. Manuel Oroso.

Exposito took over for John Timoney, a nationally recognized police executive who had previously served as chief in Philadelphia and held the No. 2 post in New York City. Regalado, however, was no fan of Timoney, who resigned shortly after the mayor's 2009 election.

Exposito has also clashed with the chief Miami-Dade County prosecutor over a shaky city corruption investigation. In addition, a video emerged earlier this year that drew more criticism.

Shot as a pilot for a proposed “Miami's Finest SOS'' television program, the video showed Miami officers arresting black suspects and talking about how they are “hunters'' and “predators'' in the fight against crime.