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On the eve of an emergency commission meeting that threatens to shorten his already brief tenure in Miami, Police Chief Art Acevedo broke a brief silence and penned a scathing eight page memo that is likely to play a big part in Monday’s showdown.
The chief, sworn in only last April — and who has spoken very little publicly since Monday’s meeting was set to address a litany of issues with his performance — wrote that the majority of commissioners were interfering with an internal investigation into a well-liked Sergeant-At-Arms he relieved of duty.
He also said that a second-in-command post he filled with a former co-worker from Houston was eliminated by commissioners out of spite and that he had contacted the U.S. Department of Justice to review the city’s internal affairs process and some questionable uses-of-force by officers.
“These events are deeply troubling and sad,” the chief wrote Friday to Mayor Francis Suarez and City Manager Art Noriega. “I have no choice but to memorialize and report the above series of improper acts, because the men and women of the MPD [Miami Police Department] and the wonderful community we serve, deserve leadership that is committed to the rule of law.”
Two weeks ago, commissioners, enraged at a series of controversial moves and blunders by Acevedo, chose to hold a special meeting to air out their concerns and grill the chief. Several of the five commissioners were upset over the removal of Luis Camacho, a Sergeant-At-Arms assigned to the mayor’s detail. Publicly, they questioned whether Camacho was removed without due process.
They also questioned the hiring of Heather Morris, Acevedo’s former assistant in Houston, as his new deputy chief in Miami. Morris’s hiring, some commissioners said, bypassed a host of qualified internal candidates.
But most of all, they were incensed over a statement the chief made during a roll call in early August in which he said the “Cuban Mafia” was running Miami’s police department. Acevedo, who said he intended the statement as humorous and later apologized, also admitted he was unaware it was a term coined by Fidel Castro to paint Miami exiles who opposed his dictatorship as criminals.
The majority of Miami commissioners either escaped from Cuba as young children or had family who suffered under Castro’s regime.
Technically, Miami commissioners don’t have the authority to remove the chief. That falls to the city manager. But a vote of no-confidence or removal can go a long way toward determining his future. That’s because the city manager, Acevedo’s boss, works at the will of commissioners. And Commissioner Joe Carollo said as much to Noriega a few weeks back, telling him that “we are your bosses.”
In summary at the end of his memo, Acevedo not only warned the information outlined in the memo would be forwarded to federal authorities, he compared some of the actions taken by commissioners to Communist Cuba.
“If I, or MPD, give in to the improper actions described herein, as a Cuban immigrant, I and my family might as well have remained in communist Cuba, because Miami and MPD would be no better than the repressive regime and the police state we left behind,” wrote the chief.
Monday’s meeting is scheduled to begin at 10 a.m. and Miami City Hall, 3500 Pan American Dr.