El Portal, Fla., officer Ronnie Hufnagel with Artic ~ above July 25, 2017, ~ a ceremony where Arctic to be officially sworn in as a K-9 officer because that the city. (Roberto Koltun/El Nuevo Herald/TNS)

MIAMI — In late November, a lover member that the El Portal police department was gotten rid of from duty without official explanation, leading to an uproar amongst the village’s 2,400 inhabitants who knew the police rookie only as “Arctic.”

A 3-year-old Siberian husky, v a face that melts hearts and a bark that sounds favor a human talking, Arctic has been famous because he to be officially sworn in to the police department on July 25, 2017. The tiny town of pet lovers automatically adored him, and also his on facebook page conveniently gained over 1,000 followers who wanted updates on his day-to-day activities.

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Now, residents say Arctic is collateral damage in a vicious political feud in between a heavy-handed mayor/manager duo and Arctic"s handler, the former police chief. It"s a saga of royal residence intrigue replete with half-truths, vendettas and also a seemingly benign incident causing Homeland Security"s knocking top top the door of an outspoken town resident.

Before his handler to be told not to carry Arctic back to occupational — the police dog identical of gift fired through no warning — Arctic was part of a ar policing effort and also outreach regimen in El Portal. Fairly than barking, biting, or sniffing, Arctic’s duty was much more therapeutic. One of his favourite assignments: hanging out v the children at a regional middle school and also taking selfies with them.

They didn"t also get come say goodbye prior to his organization was terminated.

"I think it"s kinda sad since the youngsters had started to develop that relationship with Arctic," claimed Kevin Lawrence, major of Horace Mann center School. That said having Arctic around helped the children start to construct healthy, trusting relationships v police officers, and would be a major loss because that the students.

In solution to questions around the basis for Arctic"s abrupt dismissal, village Manager Christia Alou said the Miami Herald the Arctic"s task with the police department never officially existed. His swearing in awareness nothing more than a "feel an excellent thing" because that the residents, she said.

Emails obtained by the Herald contradict the manager"s account. They file the implementation one official community police dog program, developed by the police department and also approved by the former village manager, David Rosemond, in 2017. Arctic was even added to the police department"s insurance money policy and went through rigorous training paid because that by the town before he to be sworn in through the mayor, who frequently touted the K9 program.

"It was a good asset come the neighborhood of El Portal. It to be a shining star to the program," stated Steadman Stahl, chairman of the Police Benevolent Association, the police union in Miami-Dade County. Stahl said he didn"t think the noticeable disillusion that the K9 program had actually anything to execute with Arctic"s performance. "I believe the manager and also mayor had an ext of a difficulty with the handler than the dog," Stahl said.

Arctic"s handler, Ronnie Hufnagel, was a 20-year-veteran that the village police department and served exhilaration chief for simply over a year between 2017 and also 2018.


Once a star that the town and friend of the mayor, Hufnagel had a fallout’s out with Mayor Claudia Cubillos and her ideal hand, Alou, in mid-2017. Open up hostilities between them damaged out around village Hall.

Records present Hufnagel never ever received a written reprimand until late 2018. Lock alleged insubordination or undermining the government of the mayor and also manager and also failing come comply through an official request. There is no signature or any type of notation describe Hufnagel got the reprimands. By the time of publication, Alou had actually not detailed an explanation.

After enduring months of windy critiques and also criticism by the mayor and also manager, Hufnagel was demoted back to sergeant ~ above Nov. 13, 2018.

"I have never watched so lot animosity toward police," said town resident Phillip Andronicos, that attended number of of the meetings. "There to be never any kind of of this animosity when she to be friends with the mayor."

Some in El Portal speak the negative blood started over the mayor"s statements regarding the level the police oversight of the debris removal procedure after Hurricane Irma. Hufnagel suggested there to be no police oversight, regardless of the mayor"s windy declaration come the contrary. Small proof has surfaced publicly to support either next of the dispute.

Cubillos did not respond come multiple do the efforts to call her for this story. Alou did no respond come the Herald"s request for comment regarding Hufnagel"s performance.

Jose Perez, previously of the City that Miami Police Department, was brought out the retirement to replace Hufnagel in spite of having no experience as chief and also no connection to El Portal. Simply one week into Perez"s tenure, Arctic"s services were terminated.

"I think that was one of the steps leading increase to gaining rid of the handler," stated Stahl. "Unfortunately you watch this in tiny towns."

On Dec. 10, Hufnagel to be fired without explanation. The termination letter, signed by Alou and dated Dec. 9, simply instructed Hufnagel to rotate in she car and any other town property and that her termination was reliable immediately.


Perez created a reference stating Hufnagel "failed to screen respect and recognize me through my proper rank or title" during a series of meetings he claimed took location to talk about Hufnagel"s conduct and work performance in between Nov. 20 and also the job of she termination.

In his reprimand _ date the job after Hufnagel"s discontinuation letter was signed _ Perez concluded: "I uncover that Sergeant Hufnagel"s constant disruptive command violated department polices and also procedures. Together violations amount to grounds and cause because that dismissal native the village of El Portal Police Department."

"How perform you reprimand someone if lock were currently terminated?" Stahl said, after ~ reviewing the documents provided by the village. "I"m a small bit alarm by this. Ns think the city is lying."

Again, Hufnagel never ever signed for receipt. Follow to Stahl, Hufnagel to be unaware the the main reprimand.

A last reprimand in her paper says Hufnagel failed come return village property.

None the the disciplinary records from 2018 were cited as grounds for discontinuation in Alou"s letter, nor did the city monitor protocols for discontinuation with cause.

"I think it (the termination) is a tiny bit retaliatory," Stahl said. "She was well respected in the community."

Hufnagel had just to be awarded "Officer of the Year" by the south Florida Optimist District, in part for her function in starting the village"s unique community police K9 program.

Andronicos said he and also other town residents had been going to council meetings in assistance of Hufnagel before she was fired, speak up for their long-time neighborhood police officer during public comment.


Andronicos claimed he never ever expected the retaliation he challenged for his involvement.

Andronicos said his relationship with the brand-new chief got off to a rocky start when he refused to shiver the Perez"s hand when the two an initial met at town Hall. "I knew he to be going come fire Ronnie (Hufnagel)," Andronicos stated by method of explanation for any type of rudeness on his part. However he never really blamed Perez, he said. Andronicos claimed it to be clear to him the the mayor was behind Hufnagel"s firing. "She"s the puppet master," he said.

After that, things acquired worse because that Andronicos.

Around dinnertime ~ above the work Hufnagel to be fired, three plain-clothes policemans from the Miami-Dade Homeland protection Bureau checked out Andronicos at home. The officers, usually tasked through combating potential terror threats, had actually questions because that the 73-year-old pilot around an communication he had with Perez previously that day.

Andronicos said the detectives Perez had pulled the end in prior of his car _ a coincidence, he claimed _ and also after a few blocks of steering in the very same direction, he had simply pulled up along side the formation car, rolled down his window, and asked if Hufnagel had been fired. (Waving down local officers v questions and also concerns is usual in the tiny town.)

Perez reported the Andronicos endangered him.

According come the Homeland defense report, Perez said Andronicos had chased under his squad car and also pulled up yelling around how Perez had actually fired Hufnagel. According to Perez"s version of the story together told come Homeland Security, Andronicos had yelled, "You sacked Ronnie. You much better get ready," together he spicy his finger at Perez.

Homeland security uncovered no crime had been committed and closed the case.

But Perez had also made another call accusing Andronicos of more threats.

According to documents from the Miami Shores Police Department, ~ his run-in v Andronicos, Perez called in a favor v the adjacent department on behalf of the village manager, bring about a main of extra security roughly Alou"s home. Policemans were warned the Andronicos had threatened to kill the village manager. It additionally named Hufnagel together a disgruntled ex-employee connected in some way. Miami Shores police later discovered the information to it is in erroneous and also called turn off the raised protection. (Both Perez and also Alou later on denied ever before reporting a fatality threat, in spite of official documents of Perez"s phone call.)

Andronicos said he to be targeted because that being well-known as a supporter of Hufnagel and Arctic. He said his is a cautionary story for El Portal citizens who could get associated in local politics.

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"I don"t go to the board of directors meeting any more," claimed Andronicos. "I"m fear of retaliation."

Hufnagel is defended from wrongful discontinuation by the PBA cumulative bargaining agreement, which states an officer can not be fired there is no cause. The union plan to take it legal activity and expects Hufnagel will certainly be reinstated to her former position together sergeant.