Don’t let Carollo stage a coup in the Miami Police Department. Give Chief Acevedo a chance | Opinion

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Five months into the job, Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo — a national figure in policing, a Cuban American largely embraced in Houston’s Black community — is already on be-gone fire, the victim of only-in-Miami politics.

If Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo has his way, he will likely stage a coup to oust the chief at an upcoming City Hall meeting, armed with accomplices — and the ammunition Acevedo handed them.

I could see this coming back when Acevedo marched into town, a famed lawman with an overload of “I’m-a-good-cop” testosterone on display — along with an unwise overconfidence that he understood us.

At a meeting with the Miami Herald’s Editorial Board, Acevedo made me nervous when he said even the right things with that combination of runaway energy and certainty that has made his name.

Why the angst?

I’ve seen Miami eat people for breakfast when they tried to tell us who and what we need to be, especially newcomers who want to fix us. Acevedo had no fear at all of ruffling feathers, big or small. Lacking humility, he may not have realized that Miami can switch from a big city to a small town in an instant, with just the turn of a phrase.

And Acevedo delivered a whopper.

Offensive ‘Cuban mafia’ quip

“It’s like the Cuban mafia runs Miami PD,” Acevedo admits saying while recently addressing his officers at a morning roll call. Many of them are Cuban Americans for whom this is not humor, despite what Acevedo thought, but rather a highly offensive epithet.

This is how the Castro regime has historically cast the Cuban exile community. It’s pure propaganda. And every once in a while, somebody steps on the land mine.

Acevedo deeply regrets what he said. He quickly issued an unequivocal public apology to the Cuban community, with whom he marched on Calle Ocho during the protests in support of the anti-regime demonstrations on the island.

A prolific social media user, Acevedo spent considerable time on Twitter, answering people who attacked him and expanding his apology.

“My uncle was in the Bay of Pigs, my father & two other uncles were political prisoners & many of their friends executed,” he tweeted to one man. “I wasn’t referring to our community & would never would have made the comment had I been aware of the history. I despise that regime with every cell in my body.”

The irony of the situation is that when Acevedo made his comments he was addressing the need for diversity “within our own ranks,” he explained in the public apology.

He was making the valid case, a source also told me, that because Cuban Americans are the dominant ethnic group, a minority-majority with power, they also have the responsibility to be inclusive.

The officers — and Cuban American Miami — did and do need to hear this point. I have made the same argument in columns. With economic and political power comes the moral responsibility to help other communities rise, too.

And taking inclusive policing from talk to practice is exactly why Miami needed — and still needs — Art Acevedo as police chief.

Acevedo is known for delivering on his embrace of relationship-based policing. He’s a police chief who sets the example.

But his enemies — Cuban politicians and police officers angry that he also marched alongside Black Lives Matter protesters — are milking his gaffes for all they’re worth.

Add to this already boiling ethnic pot that, as a source told me, he’s in the cross-hairs of high-ranking officers upset that they were passed over for an outsider and in a titanic battle with the police union.

And then, there’s Carollo, the opportunist, a political shark smelling blood in the water.

“I’ll be damned if I’m going to let a new transplant come here and do whatever he wants,” Carollo said at a meeting Monday. “Each one of us are duly elected. And each one of us has deep roots in this community.”

The commission can’t fire the chief. But a no-confidence vote at the scheduled Sept. 27 meeting could put pressure on City Manager Art Noriega to do so.

In fact, Carollo threatened him Monday with the reminder, “We are your bosses.”

Miami commission calls meeting to grill police chief after string of controversies

Miami & outsiders

Miami is a tough town to navigate for people who have lived here for years, let alone for an outsider. And, despite his heritage, Los Angeles-raised Acevedo is one. Just because he’s a Cuban American doesn’t mean he comes to policing in complex Miami with deep knowledge and understanding about the Cuban community.

Acevedo deserves the chance to make things right. He can do it if he has the humility to learn the lessons of the last five months.

To be seen — and respected — as a leader in this community is a privilege that has to be earned.

Acevedo’s got the right talk, but walking the walk in Miami is complicated, and yes, political.

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