Miami, FL – Miami city commissioners voted unanimously on Thursday night to terminate Miami Police Department (MPD) Chief Art Acevedo, less than six months after took the top cop position at the department.
Now-former Chief Acevedo gave remarks to reporters after the meeting, the first time he’s spoken publicly since he was suspended on Oct. 11, WSVN reported.
“Despite the fact the department has many men and women, wonderful men and women serving, the department was and continues to be in need of reform,” Chief Acevedo said.
“I lament the fact that I will not have the opportunity to continue serving here,” he said. “To reiterate, there are many quality men and women in this department. I want them to know that I admire them and will continue to support them.”
The former police chief also told reporters that “the proper government authorities” were investigating the “disclosures” he had made to the mayor and the city manager, WSVN reported.
The five-member city commission held an almost five hour, quasi-judicial meeting on Oct. 14 which served as a de facto trial to satisfy the city charter’s requirement for a hearing prior to Chief Acevedo’s firing, FOX News reported.
Miami City Manager Art Noriega suspended Chief Acevedo on Monday and announced his intention to terminate his employment, WPLG reported.
“The relationship between the Chief and the organization has become untenable and needed to be resolved promptly,” Noriega said. “In particular, the relationship between the Chief and the Police Department he leads – as well as with the community – has deteriorated beyond repair.”
“Relationships between employers and employees come down to fit and leadership style and unfortunately, Chief Acevedo is not the right fit for this organization,” the city manager added.
Noriega said that MPD Assistant Chief Manny Morales would act as interim chief while the city begins a search for Chief Acevedo’s permanent replacement, WPLG reported.
Chief Acevedo has been engaged in a very public fight with City Commissioner Joe Carollo and other lawmakers since he was sworn in, and has accused City Hall of interfering in police work.
Commissioners were enraged when, after his staffing decisions were questioned, the new police chief said, “it’s like the Cuban Mafia runs Miami PD,” KTRK reported.
Chief Acevedo said the comment was a joke that referred to a lack of diversity within the police department wasn’t meant to be offensive to anyone.
He said he was making a point about the importance of diversity and wasn’t aware the reference was a derogatory nickname for the Cuban exile community in Miami.
The police chief did not say anything on his own behalf during the hearing led by the city manager with the city commissioners acting as judges, but let his attorney speak for him.
His silence infuriated some of the commissioners.
Miami City Commission Vice Chair Ken Russell said the meeting was a waste of time because Chief Acevedo hadn’t defended himself against the eight specific allegations Noriega made in his memo announcing the suspension, the Miami Herald reported.
“The waste of time for me today is that a proper defense wasn’t given… how can we side with you if you don’t defend yourself against the points that are raised?” Russell asked from the dais where he presided over the meeting.
“If an eight-point accusation is made and you give no defense, what do you leave this body with? We can’t defend you if you don’t defend yourself. Unless the greater legal strategy is to take this all to a higher court on a different premise.
Russell said he believed there were “points and counterpoints” on many of the issues raised but said the commission hadn’t heard any defense from the police chief.
Other commission members agreed that Chief Acevedo’s lack of defense had “an ulterior motive,” the Miami Herald reported.
During the hearing, two high-level police officials told commissioners that Chief Acevedo was bad for department morale and that he had lost the confidence of the rank-and-file, FOX News reported.
Now-Interim Chief Morales, who served as an assistant chief under Chief Acevedo, recalled that the chief had said the department “was full of backstabbers and snakes.”
“It’s a litany of things, but it perhaps boils down to the systematic demoralization of the police department,” Chief Morales told the commission.
MPD Assistant Police Chief Armando Aguilar told the commissioners that a survey conducted by the Miami Fraternal Order of Police found that 79 percent of respondents said they thought Chief Acevedo should resign or be fired, NBC News reported.
John Byrne, Chief Acevedo’s attorney, questioned the validity of the union’s survey and pointed out that both Chief Morales and Asst. Chief Aguilar had been in the running for the top cop position when Chief Acevedo was recruited out of Houston by the Miami mayor.
Byrne said that commission had violated the city charter by not giving the police chief five full days to prepare his response to the suspension letter, NBC News reported.
“We don’t forfeit our right in a fair setting. This is not a fair setting,” Chief Acevedo’s attorney said.
He said the police chief had been suspended because he sent an eight-page memo to Noriega and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez on Sept. 24 that accused three commissioners of trying to interfere in an internal affairs investigation, NBC news reported.
“Every single allegation made against him [that was] presented predated sending that memo, and that tells us that Chief Acevedo wasn’t suspended for those claimed reasons,” Byrne said. “He was suspended because he had courage to do what many don’t, to speak truth to power.”
Noriega told the commission that he thought Chief Acevedo had failed as a leader because he wasn’t from Miami and didn’t understand the community, NBC News reported.
“When you’re not from here, without the pre-existing relationships and network, it takes time to establish that, and he didn’t allow for that,” the city manager said. “He engineered his demise.”