The Hallandale Beach Police Department's SWAT team has been disbanded after its 10 members resigned from the unit last week, citing safety concerns and local officials' “disdain” for the unit.
Police Chief Sonia Quinones met with one team member Monday afternoon but the conversation quickly went south. The rest of the meetings were canceled and the decision was made to disband the unit.
The eight officers and two sergeants resigned from the team, but did not resign from the police department.
Earlier Monday, the chief spoke of her disappointment over the matter.
"We take an oath, and the reality is if we start walking away when it gets challenging, I would’ve walked away from law-enforcement 28 years ago," Quinones told reporters.
Quinones had received a memo from the SWAT team Friday morning, City Manager Greg Chavarria said in a statement that thanked the officers for their service but disputed some of their account.
The officers said they were “minimally equipped” and had been “disrespected” by city officials who refused to address equipment and training concerns, the officers' memo provided by city officials said.
“The risk of carrying out our duties in this capacity is no longer acceptable to us and our families,” the officers wrote in the memo, dated June 9. “The anguish and stress of knowing that what we may be lawfully called upon to do in today’s political climate combined with the team’s current situation and several recent local events, leave us in a position that is untenable.”
The officers also said they were outraged that Quinones and command staff had recently joined protesters and other officials in taking a knee, as demonstrators called for the case of Howard Bowe to be reopened.
“This lack of support by members of the Command Staff is crippling to the agency and its rank and file," the memo said.
Bowe, a 34-year-old black man, was killed in 2014 by Hallandale Beach's SWAT team as it carried out a search warrant and raided his home. The officers wrote that investigators never found that any misconduct had been committed by the officers involved in Bowe's death. The case later resulted in a $425,000 settlement between Bowe's family and the city.
Chavarria's statement said the officers' memo incorrectly said that Quinones was supporting an elected official by taking a knee. The city manager said the chief was “taking a knee against racism, hatred and intolerance.”
"So when the community stepped forward, and they’re like 'we’re going to have in memory, Mr. George Floyd, against hatred against intolerance,' and they asked 'who in law-enforcement here would like to join us' and of course I took a knee with them," Quinones said.
The city manager's statement assured the public that Hallandale Beach would still have SWAT coverage through regional mutual aid arrangements.
Hallandale Beach Mayor Joy Cooper had said she wanted the SWAT team to remain in the city.
"I am here to stand firm, that not on my watch. I am not removing that layer of protection for our kids, our schools and our community," Cooper said.
The protests in the Hallandale Beach have occurred as demonstrations continue to take place across the country against police brutality and the death of George Floyd.