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A gang of hoodlums surrounded a victim. Any rattled witness would have called the police. But the hoodlums were the police, if the video released Monday is any indication. It shows a tangle of Miami Beach officers beating a handcuffed suspect in a hotel lobby, kicking him and slamming his head onto the hard terrazzo floor, then tackling and punching a hotel guest who dared to videotape this violence, which was his right to do. Excessive use of force is an understatement.
The officers will get their day in court, but the eyes don’t lie, which likely why Beach Police Chief Richard Clements and Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle moved with stunning speed to suspend, then charge five officers in this brutal incident — before releasing the video to the public. It’s that bad.
The police beatings occurred a week earlier, at 1:25 a.m. on July 26 in the lobby of the Royal Palm Hotel. But the video footage — a compilation of hotel-security and police body-cam videos — had been kept out of the public eye until Monday.
It’s obvious why.
Out of control
The four-minute clip released by Fernandez Rundle shows a stomach-turning display of police brutality, made more stunning in that it was captured after nationwide demands for police accountability.
“Excessive force can never, ever be an acceptable foundation for the policing of any community,” she said. Fernandez Rundle was right to move quickly in this egregious case. In the past, she hasn’t been so nimble in charging renegade officers. She deserves credit for acting almost immediately now. The out-of-control arrest of Dalonta Crudup, 24, who allegedly struck an officer with his scooter, then fled, demands accountability.
Here, every officer who seemed to show up just to land a blow on Crudup, or beat up the bystander videotaping, Khalid Vaughn, 28, of New York, has been criminally charged.
A member of the department’s leadership staff took the video to the chief, another move we applaud, although it’s unclear if fellow officers reported excessive force by colleagues, much less intervened in the beatings, as required by state law. The department blew the whistle on itself.
Five cops charged
Arrested Monday and charged with single counts of misdemeanor battery were Sgt. Jose Perez, recently promoted, and officers Kevin Perez, Robert Sabater, Steven Serrano and David Rivas. Charges could be elevated or added.
These five should also be fired, but we know how difficult that can be. Clements already indicated his hands are tied because of police-union protections and the Florida ‘s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights.
Unfortunately, the video is another blot on the Miami Beach Police Department, which has a troubled past in policing people of color, and an embarrassment for Miami Beach, which made national news Monday night because of it.
Race is hard to ignore as the mob of white and Hispanic officers swarmed the Black suspect and then the Black bystander videotaping. At the request of the police chief, charges against Vaughn were dropped.
All police departments should. But will the lessons of George Floyd’s death ever sink in?