george floyd protests

Miami-Dade Officer In Protester Take-Down Had No Body Cam

Miami-Dade's mayor has ordered the police director to now make sure all officers involved in similar operations have body-worn cameras.

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Miami-Dade police are investigating the arrest Sunday of a 23-year-old protester who says his forceful take-down caught on tape was the kind of police violence he was in Miami to protest.

Mayor Carlos Gimenez and police director Alfredo Ramirez both said there was more to the story than what the video showed, but the department will not release what Gimenez called those "other circumstances" until after a review of the officer's use of force is completed by supervisors.

One piece of evidence they will not have for that review: audio and video from body cams worn by at least two officers; the one who took 23-year-old Ariel Alfaro down, and his colleague, who Alfaro said showed disrespect to the protests by hooting and saying, "ain't this fun?"

That's because those two officers are members of the elite Special Response Team (SRT) and, unlike patrol officers and most others, they are not issued and do not have to wear body cameras.

But Gimenez ordered Ramirez to make sure in the future all officers involved in policing protests wear body cams, and the county is also exploring adding them to the shields used in crowd control operations.

Gimenez said Ramirez will be "changing his tactics on that. I‘m not sure that everybody had a body camera, but I want to make sure that all our police officers have body cameras during these very trying times. They had them on most of the time and most units do. I want all units to have them on."

So far, based on the video now public and Alfaro's claims, here's what happened:

Alfaro said he told the officer who made light of the protest, "F--- you."

The video shows that officer getting back into an unmarked SUV, appearing to wink at Alfaro just before shutting the door, as his partner emerges from the open rear door behind him.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez has proposed some new changes to the way police officers are held accountable after video footage emerged of a tough takedown of a protester.

"What are you going to do? Shoot me like you do everybody else, bro?" Alfaro says to that second officer.

After that comment, the video shows Alfaro stops approaching the SUV, does not blade his body, adopt a fighting stance, reach into his waistband or otherwise move his hands or arms in a threatening manner.

But the second officer continues coming at him from the SUV and throws him to the ground, using his right leg to swipe away Alfaro's left leg as another officer puts Alfaro in a chokehold on the sidewalk.

The video, taken by freelance videographer Adam Hendel, starts just eight seconds before the arrest, at 6:38 p.m. Sunday.

"I’ve seen the video and we’re going to look into it," Ramirez said Thursday. "Yes the initial video, yeah, it looks concerning, but there’s more to the story and either way regardless we’ll find ways to do it better."

With policing once again under a microscope, there's a new push for Miami-Dade County to follow the city and create an independent civilian panel to investigate complaints against officers. NBC 6 Investigator Tony Pipitone found the forceful arrest of one peaceful protester last weekend by county police would be the kind to get a closer look.

Alfaro, who had no prior arrest history, was charged with unlawful assembly, for being in an area near the road leading to Port Miami after protesters were warned three times to leave or face arrest.

But the last of those warnings was broadcast through a long-range acoustic device at 6 p.m. -- 38 minutes before the arrest, and long before Alfaro said he arrived in the area.

"I didn’t hear any warning at all," Alfara told NBC 6. "If he would've just said to me, 'Hey man, look. We don’t want to use excessive force. Can you just walk away?', I would've walked away."

He spent 16 hours in custody.

The state attorney's office said it is not going to prosecute most of the several dozen arrested on curfew or unlawful assembly charges.

"The great majority of the protesters are exercising their rights lawfully and can rest assured that we will not prosecute any of them," though they would consider prosecuting those "who cross the line and commit a criminal act," a spokesman said.

The prosecutors office did not answer a question on whether it would investigate the so-far unidentified officer for possible battery charges stemming from his interaction with Alfaro, who had minor injuries -- a scraped forearm and scratches on his neck.

Ramirez said he did not think the officer intentionally committed any wrongdoing, but the department will investigate and, if warranted, "we're going to correct it and we're going to get better."

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