HOMESTEAD, Fla. – The president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association is raising concern after he found out the Homestead Police Department was storing human fetuses inside a compact refrigerator for years.
"They opened it up, and they found fetuses in there," PBA President John Rivera told Local 10 News. "We have irregularities at best, maybe criminal actions at worst. We want it exposed."
Rivera did just that in an open letter to PBA members this month. In the letter, Rivera outlined how during the department's recent move from its old station downtown to its new, temporary location, the refrigerator was discovered in a property room wrapped in evidence tape with instructions "not" to open.
"Why were fetuses put in a refrigerator and not sent to the medical examiner's office?" Rivera said.
But others who work for the police department defend the actions and claim storing the fetuses in the refrigerator was proper protocol.
"The Homestead Police Department did absolutely nothing wrong," Detective Fernando Morales said.
Morales said the department has been storing four fetuses for at least 10 years. He said the fetuses are all from sexual assault cases.
"This is not something preserved out of malice," Morales said.
Morales insists the department is just following the standard operating procedure established by the Miami-Dade Police Department, which says property collected from sex crimes cases shall be retained for 75 years.
According to the department's property and evidence section's technical manual, "evidence collected for the investigative and prosecutorial process of sexual crimes will be retained by MDPD for a period of 75 years, unless written notification is received from the state attorney's office that the case is closed and property can be destroyed."
But a former Homestead police officer finds that explanation difficult to understand.
"I just can't believe you would dispose of it properly by leaving it in a refrigerator for years to come," Steadman Stahl said. "If you had a body, you certainly wouldn't leave a body in a refrigerator for years."