Mascotte, Florida — Mascotte Police Department located in Mascotte, Florida has had it’s share of news headlines. In 1984 the city hall burst into flames and burnt to the ground, the police department was the center of that investigation, no one was ever charged with the fire. However then-Chief Gary Birman was later arrested and charged with other unrelated arson’s and went to prison. In 1988 a Mascotte Police Officer was arrested, and now sits on death row for raping and killing an 11-year-old girl. 10 years later nearly the entire police department was left empty when officers walked off the job.
Now in October of 2013 the Mascotte Police Department has a different head line; extreme racism against white officers.
Chief Rolando Banasco was promoted from sergeant to chief in January. After Banasco was promoted, officers say he immediately made it known he wanted an all Hispanic staff. Banasco told the officers as he was holding up his arm, “I will flex my Hispanic muscle to pave the way for Hispanic officers to be hired.” More than 50 percent of Mascotte residents are Hispanic, majority of them Mexican.
According to officers, Banasco has gone as far as to fabricate disciplinary write ups for officers, completely falsifying charges against officers.
City manager Jim Gleason says the accusations are not true and he does not tolerate racism, however officers say Gleason is a liar.
Four officers have been fired, all white. Banasco hired four officers to replace the four that were terminated, two Hispanic ,one black, and one white.
Reports show that two weeks after Banasco was promoted to chief, he immediately put officers on a performance improvement plan. However the officers didn’t have any previous disciplinary actions in their files to prompt such actions.
A Federal discrimination lawsuit has been filed against the city. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission refused to investigate at first, due to the fact the officers are white. However they have agreed to look into the accusations.
The four officers that were fired are now struggling to make ends meet. Two of the families of the fired officers have moved in together just to be able to survive as they continue to seek employment.
One of the officers, who is also an eight-year veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps says he is filing for unemployment. He went on to say, “The only thing I know is wearing a uniform, and I’ve worn one for 34 years serving the community and the country, and this is how I get treated.
“I’m 54 years old — who is going to hire me?”
Officers have stated that the racism they endured was extreme. So bad in fact, one officer had to see a psychiatrist after suffering extreme abuse from Banasco.
The City and Banasco continue to deny all charges.
According to reports, Chief Rolando Banasco constantly brags about being the first Hispanic chief and how he is perfect for the job, however Rolando Banasco left his previous agency during an investigation for misconduct against him.
One unnamed person said, “Maybe the chief should be less worried about race and more worried about his weight and the image he brings to the city.”
Ocala Post investigated further and found disciplinary actions that had been taken against the four officers involving previous agencies they have worked for. One of the officers that was terminated from Mascotte PD was investigated for serious charges while he worked for a different agency, but cleared of those charges. Once Ocala Post confirms the disciplinary actions are true and correct the information will be released.
At this point it is a he said she said investigation and hard facts have not been presented from either side.
Ocala Post tried to get more details, however due to the lawsuit most lips are sealed.
Ocala Post will continue to follow this story.
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