Miami Beach

Miami Beach Temporarily Suspends Police Ordinance Due to Scrutiny Over Arrests

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New video released by a New York woman’s attorney appears to show a Miami Beach police officer hitting the woman with a bicycle and then pepper spraying her as she tried to record an ongoing arrest on July 25. 

The woman, Mariyah Maple, was arrested and accused of violating a new Miami Beach ordinance that prohibits civilians from approaching a law enforcement officer with "intent to impede, provoke, or harass," after being given a warning by an officer.

"It’s absurd that she was arrested.  The video clearly shows she didn’t do anything wrong.  What the police wrote down in their report is contradicted by the cellphone video and it’s disturbing," Chad Piotrowski, Maple's attorney said.

Now the Miami Beach police chief has temporarily suspended enforcement of the ordinance until all Miami Beach officers have received additional, in-person training on the nuances of the ordinance, according to a statement released by the Miami Beach department.

The release said no one has been arrested for violating the ordinance since July 26. 

The totality of circumstances surrounding the incident from July 25 are currently under review by the Internal Affairs Unit. While the investigation is underway, Sergeant Vincent Stella has been placed on administrative duty, the release said.

Other arrests for violating the ordinance have been due to a person trying to record an incident on a cellphone, but the ordinance does not apply solely to that action.

Two men, also from New York, were detained while trying to record a rough arrest on July 26 inside the Royal Palm Hotel. 

"The ordinance is intended to protect Miami Beach police officers from interference by bystanders while doing their job," David Frankel, an attorney representing the two men from New York said in a statement. "However, the language of the ordinance is so broad that it allows a police officer to arrest anyone nearby who may be engaging in perfectly lawful conduct, like using their cellphone to record what they believe is police misconduct."

The men were initially accused of violating that same ordinance, but those charges were later dropped.

"As it was explained to us, it was a tool for the Miami Beach police to have if they're in the middle of an arrest or performing an official duty so that people wouldn't interfere and put a camera in their face necessarily and perhaps endanger an officer's life or other people on the scene," Miami Beach Commissioner Michael Gongora said.

Gongora also says he didn't sponsor the ordinance, but says it passed unanimously. He said the chief of police is taking the appropriate action.

"I think we're seeing a new law go into place and perhaps there wasn't enough explanation or training to the officers before it went into effect," Gongora said.

"So I think what our police chief is doing is correct. He's not going to enforce the ordinance for whatever period he determines so he can give the officers some training on its applicability," he said.

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