Miami officials have decided to fire the city’s new police chief six months into his stormy tenure, after he was lambasted by the city commissioners he accused of meddling in the police department and internal affairs investigations.
Miami City Manager Art Noriega said in a statement Monday that he suspended Chief Art Acevedo with the intent to terminate his employment.
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“The relationship between the Chief and the organization has become untenable and needed to be resolved promptly,” Noriega said. “Chief Acevedo is not the right fit for this organization."
Speaking at a news conference Tuesday afternoon, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said he agreed with Noriega's decision.
"This was a difficult decision and it marks the beginning of the end of an unfortunate episode for our city," Suarez said. "While it is clear that Chief Acevedo has the qualifications and the experience to be an effective chief of police, it is also obvious that his personality and leadership style are incompatible with the structure of our city's government."
Suarez also mentioned the ongoing clash involving Acevedo and city commissioners.
"The status quo where a top city administrator is at war with the city's elected leadership is simply untenable and unsustainable," Suarez said. "This dynamic was unforeseeable, and while Chief Acevedo ended up not being a good fit for our city, I certainly wish him and his family the best of luck in the future."
Suarez said Acevedo has a right to a hearing before commissioners and said he expects Acevedo to request the hearing, which is being scheduled.
"This is not about fault. And I think every elected official had the expectation and the hope that this would work out, I think any time you hire someone, and there's no doubt that he was hired with tremendous qualifications, he was president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, he was chief of three successive large departments, so he was hired with a high level of expectation and unfortunately not every hire works to your satisfaction," Suarez said.
Acevedo was recruited by Suarez, who earlier this year hailed him as “America’s best chief.” He was seen as a progressive law enforcer who headed the police department in Houston, and shares ancestry with hundreds of thousands of Cubans in Miami as a Havana-born refugee.
But Acevedo began making waves almost immediately after he was sworn in in April by taking over internal affairs and making significant changes to his command staff. He demoted four majors and fired two high-level police officials — a married couple — because they weren’t truthful about a crash involving a city-issued SUV.
At two raucous meetings over the past month, commissioners attacked Acevedo and his leadership, appointing themselves to an investigative committee with subpoena power to examine his appointment.
At one of those meetings, videos were played of Acevedo impersonating Elvis Presley dancing the “Jailhouse Rock” in the iconic white jumpsuit and entering a dance floor of a fundraiser, slapping a woman’s rear with a piece of paper. At another, city commissioner Joe Carollo asked that Acevedo arrest him if he had proof that he and other politicians were interfering with internal affairs investigations.
Miami City Commissioner Alex Diaz De La Portilla, one of the commissioners who had clashed with Acevedo, released a statement Monday night on the situation.
“The natural outcome of an arrogant and dishonest police chief was that he would be dismissed. His bad actions speak for themselves. Our city, our police officers and our residents will be better off as a result," the statement read. "Who will replace Chief Acevedo? A homegrown leader who is honest, conscientious and understands and respects not only our community but our courageous police officers who risk their lives for us each and every day. We don't need any more interlopers."
In an eight-page memo sent by Acevedo to the city manager and mayor before those meetings, Acevedo stated that Carollo and the other commissioners were interfering with internal affairs investigations, and improperly ordering police resources to be deployed against certain establishments “based on nothing more than the whims of commissioners.” He also accused the commissioners of hampering his reform mandate by eliminating positions.
Carollo and the other two Cuban American commissioners said they were deeply offended when reports emerged last month that Acevedo talked to officers about a “Cuban mafia” that runs the city. Acevedo later apologized, saying he didn’t know that was a term former Cuban leader Fidel Castro used to refer to exiles.
“He must be the only individual of Cuban background in the world who doesn’t know that,” Carollo said. “You are not in the middle of the Amazon.”
Among other things, the commissioners alleged that Acevedo has been hypocritical for firing officers for some of the things he is accused of doing.
Carollo, the most vocal politician opposing Acevedo’s leadership, scrutinized an older photo where the police chief was seen using a “white power” hand gesture similar to the OK hand sign, saying a Miami officer was relieved of duty by Acevedo after being accused of using the same gesture.
Carollo and another commissioner are also scrutinizing damage seen on Acevedo’s SUV, which they claim was not properly reported. They say that was similar to the incident that led to Acevedo’s firing of the husband and wife police officers.
Assistant Police Chief Manny Morales will take over as interim chief while the city searches for a permanent replacement.
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