James Dobson, former Chief of Police in Opa-Locka, Floria, filed a lawsuit against the city under the Florida Whistleblower Statute, according to an NBC Miami 6 article.
City manager John Pate announced Dobson’s firing on August 14. In his announcement, Pate linked the decision to “a myriad of situations stemming from the current crime rate the City has experienced the last couple of years, as well as the Police Department’s lack of progress based on the assessment report from earlier this year by the Miami-Dade County Police Department.” The department is now publicly searching to hire a new Chief of Police “who will consider the latest research on police reform, accountability, and community policing to enact evidence-based strategies to protect, serve, and reduce crime in the City of Opa-Locka,” Mayor Matthew Pigatt stated.
In his whistleblower lawsuit, however, Dobson alleges that political interference also contributed to his firing and that his termination was an act of whistleblower retaliation, according to a second NBC Miami 6 report. The day before the city announced his termination, Dobson pulled over and gave a citation to Ramona Pigatt, who the city later confirmed to be Mayor Pigatt’s cousin. Dobson “cited Ramona Pigatt for not wearing a seat belt, violations with her tag, registration, and no proof of insurance,” and the body camera footage shows Dobson confirming his name and badge number on the citation.
“He refused to engage in corrupt activities in the City Of Opa-Locka. He refused to let them interfere in writing tickets, investigating crime, in personnel matters,” said Michael Pizzi, Dobson’s lawyer. Additionally, Dobson defended the results of the aforementioned crime rate study and told NBC Miami 6: “The community and the police growing together and that’s what we tried to do, and that’s what we did while I was there is to continue to bring community serviced police to that city.”
Dobson is seeking $4 million in his whistleblower lawsuit for “‘pain and suffering,’ ‘mental anguish,’ and the loss of future earnings,” according to a Miami Herald article.