Miami police chief ruffles feathers of courthouse leaders. Was it intentional? | Editorial

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Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo has been on the job for about two months, and he’s already making his mark.

As he takes stock of the 1,400-member department, Acevedo appears to be cleaning house — or, at least, he is showing little tolerance for wrongdoing within his rank and file. This month, he demanded to know what officers had done with two dozen missing high-powered rifles. Give them up or face prosecution, he said. At least six have been recovered.

Acevedo also hinted he will terminate two of the city’s highest-ranking officers — Ronald and Nerly Papier. Commander Nerly Papier crashed a patrol vehicle, and her husband, Ronald Papier, who had been a finalist to be chief, was involved in the improper chain of command on the incident, an internal investigation found.

But Acevedo has also ruffled the feathers of justice-community colleagues outside the department by breaking local tradition: He has dared to publicly criticize other county leaders involved in law enforcement, specifically Public Defender Carlos Martinez and Miami-Dade Chief Judge Bertila Soto.

Acevedo thinks the courthouse has not reopened quickly enough, following wide local vaccination and CDC orders — and he’s not shy about saying it. At news conferences, and in a meeting with the Editorial Board, Acevedo has expressed frustration with the court system’s sluggishness in dispensing the law to those his department arrests.

A slap to the courts

He did it most recently during a news conference, where he had gathered all stakeholders to announce a crackdown on criminals and crime, which has recently spiked across the county.

“Let’s get our courts up and running 100 percent, eight cylinders because we’re going to bring you business ... they’ll have to come to work. Justice delayed is justice denied,” Acevedo said, as Miami-Dade State Attorney Fernandez Rundle stood next to him. “Of course, prosecutors are working,“ he added.

Acevedo is sending the message that criminal courts have not been open during the pandemic, and now that the end is in sight, they have to return to in-person service.

Martinez said Acevedo’s perception of the court system work has functioned during the pandemic, and his attacks, are unfair. “We have been working by Zoom all along, Martinez told the Editorial Board. “He is undermining the public’s confidence in the court system. We’ve been open and working under difficult circumstances,” Martinez said.

Court leader responds

Soto agrees.

“The courts are here and open, as always, ready to serve. The criminal divisions never shut down and have operated fully on the Zoom platform since March 2020, with some limited in-person operations and jury trials within the parameters set out by the CDC and the Supreme Court of Florida,” Soto said about Acevedo’s public jabs.

She added: “We are looking forward to full in-person operations in light of the latest announcements from the CDC and the mayor. We appreciate the efforts of our law enforcement agencies and our State Attorney in making sure that cases are prepared and ready to go. We, your judges, have been and will continue to be ready.”

Are Acevedo’s public attacks bad form? We know he is trying to shake things up. We also know he’s used to standing in the media spotlight. We know, too, that Soto and Martinez have worked hard to keep the wheels of justice turning during highly challenging time.

On Monday, the interested parties are scheduled to meet to hash things out.

Ruffled feathers aren’t necessarily a bad thing, as long as they are the foundation of debate, understanding and, ultimately, cooperation for enhanced service to the public.

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