Miami’s best under siege cop compared city rulers to Cuban dictators

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MIAMI – Hiring Art Acevedo as Miami Police Chief seemed like an ideal match. Chef Acevedo, fresh off a high-level pass in Houston, brought stature and swagger to a city infatuated with both. And as a Cuban immigrant maintaining law and order in the country’s largest concentration of Cuban Americans, his arrival had an inevitable air of celebration.

It was six months ago. Today, Chief Acevedo is at the center of an archetypal Miami political drama, full of references to Cuban communism and corruption, which rocked town hall and threatened his work.

Even before moving to Miami, Chief Acevedo was somewhat of a famous police chief, known as a vocal critic of former President Donald J. Trump – despite being a Republican himself – and a prominent supporter. police reform, especially towards communities of color. and immigrants.

But the Miami imbroglio is not over with politics. It’s a clash of personalities between an ambitious new foreigner and powerful city commissioners, upset both by Chief Acevedo’s surprise appointment and his tendency to say exactly what he thinks.

“He was someone who could come in from the outside and really make a change,” Art Noriega, the city manager, told the city commission at a wild meeting on Monday. “Where we are today in particular depends on the style and how that change is made. “

Chief Acevedo accused several commissioners of thwarting his attempts to “change the culture” of the department, as he said he was hired to do, by inappropriately interfering in personnel decisions.

“These events are deeply disturbing and sad,” he wrote in an eight-page letter on Friday in which he denounced the way in which the commissioners tried to influence an internal affairs investigation, then retaliated by funding high-level positions in the budget of the police department. “If I or the MPD gave in to the inappropriate actions described here,” he added, “as a Cuban immigrant, my family and I might as well have stayed in Communist Cuba, because Miami and MPD would not be worth it. better than the repressive regime and the police state that we left behind.

The political struggle unfolded on Monday in a long broadcast of grievances by commissioners who demanded an investigation into Chief Acevedo’s past, his hiring and his recent actions – effectively pressuring the city manager to fire him. The commissioners cannot fire him because he does not work directly for them.

It was an unexpected turning point for both the chef and for Miami, which tried to prove it was a mature city ready to attract serious tech investors, only to find itself embroiled in a nasty battle for its sixth. police chief in 11 years. It was only this year that the Justice Department ended five years of police department surveillance, which began after an investigation into the murders of seven black men by police.

Chief Acevedo was supposed to end this era by enacting reforms and promoting a fair and merit-based chain of command within the police force.

But he wasted no time in generating his own controversy. He fired two high ranking officers and demoted the second black officer in the department. He said his own department – rather than the Florida Department of Law Enforcement – should investigate the police shootings. And he angered the police union by telling a local radio station that officers should get the coronavirus vaccine or risk losing their jobs.

Last week, a majority of members interviewed by the Fraternal Order of Police said they had no confidence in the chief and that he should be fired or forced to resign.

Meanwhile, Chief Acevedo was also making new enemies outside of the police department.

During a demonstration in support of freedom activists in Cuba outside Miami’s iconic Versailles restaurant, the chef was caught posing for a photo with a prominent member of the Proud Boys. (He didn’t know who it was, the leader said.) That day someone also recorded him swearing at a man who asked him why he was hanging out with Marxists and Communists and supported the Black Lives Matter movement.

What particularly exasperated the commissioners, in addition to cleaning up the police headquarters, was when Chief Acevedo told a group of officers this summer that the department was run by a “Cuban mafia”. The leader then apologized, saying he had designed it as a joke and did not realize that Fidel Castro had used the same phrase to refer to Cuban exiles in Miami who opposed his regime. Communist.

The meeting of the commissioners to face the leader on Monday quickly turned into a Miami-style political theater.

At one point, Commissioner Joe Carollo captured a video clip of Chef Acevedo, taken before he worked in Miami, performing a steamy dance at a fundraiser. (In another clip, he was dressed as Elvis, which prompted Mr. Carollo to adjust the chef’s pants.)

A supporter of the leader shouted at one point on the dais and, as he walked out of the chambers, held out a finger at the commissioners.

Mr Carollo has spent several hours reading newspaper clippings and other material on Chief Acevedo’s case at law enforcement agencies in California and Texas, including at least one allegation of sexual harassment that the chief denied. Mr Carollo has repeatedly asked Mr Noriega if he was aware of these controversies before hiring Chief Acevedo.

“No, sir,” replied Mr. Noriega.

“He is not accountable to anyone,” Carollo said of Chief Acevedo. “He’s not accountable to the city manager, not accountable to the residents of Miami – not accountable, period.”

Mayor Francis Suarez, who recruited the Houston police chief in what was widely seen as a way to bolster the mayor’s national prominence ahead of his re-election in November, did not attend the meeting. Commissioner Ken Russell, Acting Chairman, was absent.

Mr Noriega said he hired the chief in March after Mayor Suarez learned he might be available for the job and the Houston mayor recommended him. But that bypassed a search committee Miami had created to review the chiefs of police nominations. Chef Acevedo never applied for the job. Now he earns $ 315,000 a year, although his total compensation, including benefits, is over $ 437,000.

For his part, Chief Acevedo, who did not address the commission, said in his letter that he believed he had angered some of the commissioners by refusing to arrest unspecified “agitators” and “communists” at the time. of a public rally in June – there had been no agitators, his officers later concluded – and refusing to get caught up in the commissioners’ unsubstantiated allegations of code enforcement violations in the districts of each other.

The department had “wasted countless hours” investigating due to the “inappropriate political influence” of these commissioners, he said.

Monday’s meeting started an hour late. The commissioners then took a two hour lunch break. When they finally allowed public comment, five hours later, people lined up at the microphones, many of them angry with their chosen ones for the show of the day. Others have raised the Commissioners’ own notorious files. Many supported the leader.

The meeting ended in the evening, with Commissioners planning a follow-up discussion for Friday. The mystery of Chief Acevedo’s fate persisted.


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