A Miami Police Department supervisor who claims she was demoted unfairly is now taking legal action against the police chief and the department alleging discrimination.
Former Major Keandra Simmons is using the state law to get protections as a whistleblower so she can keep her job at the Miami Police Department. She said she’s blowing the whistle on what she calls the discrimination she’s faced, after being demoted following a high profile investigation.
"To have it all taken away from you just at a whim is very disappointing and disheartening," Simmons said in an exclusive interview with NBC 6 Monday. "It’s in vain and it was done with no justification and no cause behind it."
Simmons, 41, was demoted from a major to lieutenant last week and said the demotion is uncalled for and sends the wrong message to a community that needs more officers who look like her.
"It’s bigger than just me. I stand for every Black woman, every little girl, everyone who aspires to be something and to just be cut down after all the hard work, commitment, dedication that I have given to my profession, just overall as a Black woman it's a slap in the face," she said.
Simmons said the demotion means a cut in pay of about $60,000 a year.
A memo from Chief Art Acevedo last week announced the change with Simmons and other officers. "Effective August 1, the Department will have 4 fewer Major positions and 1 less Executive Officer position," the memo read.
Simmons' attorney, Michael Pizzi, filed a complaint with Miami’s Mayor, City Manager, and police department Monday alleging discrimination.
"For Chief Acevedo to come here and immediately demote and punish for no reason whatsoever the second highest ranking black female in department history, that is not a way to heal this community," Pizzi said.
Pizzi said Simmons faced retaliation after she gave her statement during an internal affairs investigation into a high profile couple at the department this spring. Commander Nerly Papier and her husband Deputy Chief Ronal Papier were terminated over a traffic accident Commander Papier was in and the way it was handled afterwards.
"All she did was provided accurate and truthful information to her superiors under the appropriate rules and follow the rules and guidelines," Pizzi said. "Apparently, under Chief Acevedo, what he’s looking for is people who will support his agenda."
Simmons said she wants her rank and job back immediately.
"If you know anything about me, I’m going to always tell the truth. So, unfortunately if that means it may put me in a bad situation at times, I am going to always tell the truth," Simmons said.
Simmons is also filing a discrimination claim with federal government. Chief Acevedo, when taking over, said that improving relations with minority communities is a top priority.
In a statement released Monday, the department said since litigation is involved, it would have no comment on the allegations Simmons is now making.
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