A police union for Black officers on Friday called for Miami's police chief to step down over offensive words he admitted making more than 20 years ago during what he says was a training class on undercover policing that sought to give the trainees a real-life feel.
In a video, Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said he started the class for the Miami Police Department in 1997 by giving a warning that the language he was going to be using was offensive. He didn't say in the video what words he used.
“When you are working undercover, you may have to act and say things that you normally wouldn’t say otherwise, whether they make you uncomfortable or not," Colina said. “And then I gave many examples of what that could be. A lot of that language was in fact offensive. But again, that was the point of the class."
After the class, Colina was reprimanded by the police chief who was concerned about his language, he said.
“Not because I’m a bigot or racist but because they were unhappy with some of the language that I used. Period," Colina said.
But the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association on Friday said Colina should step down. The group of Black officers previously had notified city officials that they had no confidence in the police chief, the association said in a statement.
The chief's offensive words had “manifested into a continued culture of misconduct that he has allowed to emanate within the police department," the statement said.
“We have issues of racism, hostile work environment, discrimination,” said Sergeant Stanley Jean-Poix, president of Miami Community Police Benevolent Association. “We believe Chief Colina harbors implicit biases and it reflects today on the department. Whenever we talk to him about our issues, he’s tone deaf.”
Jean-Poix says their complaints of racial bias have been ignored for years.
“We have issues with supervisors using the ‘N-word’ towards police officers. Chief never did anything about it. We have officers where their ethnicity was made fun of, ridiculed, their accent, their age. Chief barely did anything about it,” Jean-Poix said.
Colina calls the accusations “sad.”
“You have a group of individuals who would take the murder of George Floyd and use that for their own self serving purposes for their own agenda is disgusting,” Colina said. “It’s disgusting.”
Cities and law enforcement agencies across the U.S. have promised police reforms following two weeks of protests over the death of George Floyd, who died after being pinned down by Minneapolis police. On Thursday, neighboring the Miami-Dade Police Department said it would no longer use chokeholds.