It used to be that the Miami Police Department was the most notorious law enforcement agency in South Florida.
But that was before the Miami Beach Police Department started giving it a run for its money.
Besides shooting and killing two unarmed suspects in a span of four days last year (by the same officer, nonetheless) and building a reputation for racial profiling and unlawful arrests on Memorial Day Weekend, the Miami Beach Police Department is now accused of beating and wrongly arresting gay men.
In other words, they are being accused of hate crimes.
The ACLU on Wednesday announced its intent to sue the police department, citing an incident involving Harold Strickland, a gay man who called 911 last year to report two officers beating and kicking a gay man who lay handcuffed on the ground.
Strickland was assaulted and arrested himself in an incident that was recorded on a 911 dispatch tape.
Naturally, the police report contradicts the events that were recorded.
Officers Frankly Forte and Elliot Hazzi claimed Strickland was breaking into cars and took off running when they approached him. The recording proves that Strickland was cooperative with police.
Besides, when was the last time you heard of a car thief dialing 911 in the midst of a crime spree to report police brutality?
In its letter to Miami Beach Mayor Matti Bower, the ACLU also brings up the excessive arrests that occur every Memorial Day Weekend when throngs of young black people descend upon Miami Beach for the annual hip hop fest.
They are accused of arresting people for photographing incidents of police misconduct and seizing their memory cards and cameras.
MBPD officers also have an alarming history of arresting individuals, particularly African-American men and women, who witness police misconduct. During Urban Beach Week over Memorial Day weekend, the ACLU of Florida received reports that MBPD officers threatened and then arrested people of color who observed and photographed officers’ unlawful arrests. MBPD officers forcibly seized SIM cards from observers’ cell phones after they used their cell phone cameras to document incidents of police misconduct.
Besides the Memorial Day Weekend Blitzkrieg, the ACLU says there is an ongoing pattern of harassment against gay men, which might be surprising to some considering that South Beach has long been considered a mecca for homosexuals.
The announcement of the lawsuit comes on the heels of a Miami New Times article that described Miami Beach as one of the most dangerous places in Florida for homosexuals to live.
The article prompted criticisms from Miami Herald gay issues reporter Steve Rothaus and Miami Beach’s gay publication, Wire Magazine as being exaggerated and sensationalized with both publications stating the numbers cited in the New Times’ article were misleading.
But if it is true that the Miami Beach Police Department has an ongoing systematic pattern of unlawfully beating and arresting gay men, then it’s a sure bet those numbers were understated.