Miami police are asking Miami-Dade mayoral candidate Esteban “Steve” Bovo Jr. to take down a TV ad that includes an image of the county commissioner standing with the city’s police chief.
Deputy Chief Ronald Papier said the department first notified the Bovo campaign verbally earlier this week and that on Friday it forwarded an email explaining how using their likeness to insinuate supporting a political candidate was against department policy.
As senior police administrators “for a major American city, we are not only public officials, but also, public figures. Therefore, it is imperative that we remain both explicitly and implicitly impartial during all elections for public office,” the department said in an email sent to Bovo by Assistant Chief Armando Aguilar Jr.
“We will review the letter,” Bovo said Friday afternoon.
The video in question, which can be found on YouTube, is an endorsement by Miami’s Police Benevolent Association, the county’s police union. In it, PBA President Steadman Stahl says the union fears Bovo’s challenger, Daniella Levine Cava, would cut resources for police. Levine Cava has denied this, pointing to past votes for budgets increasing the county police budget.
Miami police are represented by a different union, the Fraternal Order of Police. And senior police staff don’t have union representation.
The letter to Bovo says police were videotaped with the candidate at three separate events: during a face-mask distribution on April 28, after a night of violent protest on May 30 and again during a tour of the department’s Real Time Crime Center on Aug. 26.
Near the end of the video, Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina, Assistant Chief Manuel Morales and Papier are seen briefly standing near Bovo during the April 28 mask giveaway at Miami’s downtown police headquarters.
“We are unaware of who took the photographs, but we must state on record that the MPD did not take or disseminate them,” Aguilar wrote on behalf of the command staff.
Congressional candidate Maria Elvira Salazar, who is trying to unseat Donna Shalala for the District 27 House seat, was also at the April 28 event and subsequently released an ad showing her elbow-to-elbow with Miami Police Cmdr. Freddie Cruz. Though the department hasn’t asked Salazar to remove that ad, it said the picture was also shot without Cruz’s approval and that supporting a candidate while on-duty would be against department policy.
The kerfuffle comes on the heels of a blow up earlier in the week that made national headlines in which a Miami police officer in uniform and on duty was taken to task for openly supporting President Donald Trump - a strict no-no according to department policy.
Officer Daniel Ubeda was photographed just a few feet from voting booths at Miami’s Government Center, his nose and mouth covered in a mask that said “Trump 2020” and “no more bull....” Unfortunately for Ubeda, he was photographed by Steve Simeonidis, the chairman of Miami-Dade’s Democratic party.
Though Ubeda had not been punished as of Friday, Colina said discipline was forthcoming. And on Thursday, the office of Miami-Dade’s top prosecutor called Ubeda’s decision “unacceptable” and said it would “review” the outcome of the police department’s Internal Affairs investigation.
Miami’s Police union stood behind the officer saying he had every right to express his First Amendment rights.