MIAMI – The tumultuous end of the notorious Miami Police Chief’s tenure has left many outside South Florida political circles wondering what happened after he came to work six months ago, hailed by many as a distinguished national leader in law enforcement.
Mayor Francis Suarez explained on Tuesday why Police Chief Art Acevedo’s stay in Miami has ended.
“While it is clear that Chief Acevedo has the qualifications and experience to be an effective police chief, it is also evident that his personality and leadership style are incompatible with the structure of government in our city,” Suarez told reporters as he announced his support. for Miami City Manager Art Noriega, who made the decision to suspend Acevedo and recommend that the city commission fire him.
Acevedo, the former Houston Police Chief, had in the past seemed like the perfect fit to lead the Miami Police Department. He was born in Cuba and is said to oversee the city’s police force along with the largest number of Cuban Americans.
In Houston, he won the nation’s praise for speaking out on police reform. After the police murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year, he marched with protesters and called for officers to be held accountable when they kill without jurisdiction. He was among the first police chiefs in a large city to speak out against police violence.
And he was a vocal critic of former President Donald Trump, even though he’s a Republican himself.
Suarez once praised him as “America’s best chef”.
But the honeymoon was short.
Acevedo clashed with powerful Miami city commissioners, annoyed by his unexpected appointment by Noriega.
“There were commissioners who disliked Art from the start and set out to undermine it,” said electoral lawyer Juan Carlos Planas, a former representative of the Republican state turned Democrat.
Acevedo accused the majority of commissioners in a scathing memo last month of interfering in an internal investigation and retaliating against him by cutting the budget for senior positions within the police department.
In the letter to Suarez and Noriega, Acevedo wrote that if he or the police department “gave in to the inappropriate actions described here, as a Cuban immigrant, my family and I might as well have stayed in Communist Cuba, because that Miami and MPD would be no better than the repressive regime and the police state that we left behind.
The letter was released ahead of a commission meeting where commissioners reviewed Acevedo’s track record during his tenures in Houston and Austin, Texas. At one point, Commissioner Joe Carollo called out Acevedo for playing Elvis Presley at a fundraiser in Austin and drew attention to his tight pants in a video.
Commissioners demanded an investigation into Acevedo and the way he was hired, pressuring the city manager to fire him.
NBC Miami reported that Acevedo had not formally applied for the job and was chosen from over 50 applicants, including internal applicants.
Noriega, the city manager, said he hired Acevedo after an introduction from Suarez, who said in March: “It was a great job recruiting our manager to basically get what the police chief is. American here in Miami. “
He previously described Acevedo as the “Tom Brady or Michael Jordan of Police Chiefs”.
Eduardo Gamarra, professor of political science at Florida International University, said: “You have a very conservative political environment that opposed this gentleman before they hired him. Here is someone who arrives promising to reform the place with a political class that didn’t think it needed reform.
He added: “It is very difficult to bring in someone who promises reform in a system that does not welcome it, and in particular police reform.
Suarez said the hostile dynamic between Acevedo and the commission was “unpredictable” but “simply untenable and unsustainable”.
During his brief tenure, Acevedo also drew criticism within the police department and within the community.
He has been criticized for firing two high-ranking officers and demoting a high-ranking black woman.
He angered some officers when he told a radio station that officers should get vaccinated against Covid-19 or risk losing their jobs.
Acevedo was also caught posing for a photo with a prominent member of the Proud Boys; Acevedo said he did not know who the man was.
The commissioners were particularly angry when Acevedo told about 100 sworn employees that the 1,300 members of the police force were led by the “Cuban mafia”.
He apologized in a tweet, saying he wanted it as a joke and didn’t realize the late Fidel Castro used the same phrase to refer to Cuban exiles in Miami.
Planas said he believed the use of the term was “exaggerated” and that the commissioners had used it as an excuse.
He blamed what he called “a dysfunction in the city” for the way the city operates – Miami has neither a strong government, in which the elected mayor has almost absolute administrative authority, nor a jointly run government. by a commission and a municipal director. . Miami has a “city commissioner plan,” or what Planas said was a “hybrid” system “that just doesn’t work.”
“Obviously, the personalities of the commission are also contributing to the dysfunction,” he said.
“I just don’t see how anyone from outside of Miami will ever want to return to a job here. And I’m not just talking about the police. I’m talking about any department. … No one is going to want to come here and deal with this dysfunction. And that’s what it is. It is a highly toxic and dysfunctional environment.
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