Miami police union holds confidence vote on Chief Art Acevedo
A survey sent to union members comes after a series of gaffes and staffing shake-ups by Acevedo
By Charles Rabin
MIAMI — Miami police union members are being asked if they’ve lost confidence in Chief Art Acevedo after just six months on the job and want him gone — a vote that comes less than a week before a pivotal meeting before city commissioners that could determine his fate.
The results could provide fodder for a majority of city commissioners who say they are fed up with the dissension within the ranks caused by the chief and the department’s low morale.
Last week, Miami commissioners angered after a series of controversial moves and gaffes by Acevedo called for a special meeting Monday in which the only item discussed will be decisions made by the chief and how the city should move forward.
Commissioners, led by Joe Carollo, were particularly upset over a statement Acevedo made during a morning roll call last month in which he said the department was run by the “Cuban Mafia.” The chief later apologized, said it was intended as humor and that he was unaware the term was coined by Fidel Castro to paint Miami’s exiles who opposed his dictatorship as criminals. Three of the city’s commissioners are either exiles or have family members who suffered under the Castro regime.
Since taking the helm in April, Acevedo has fired the highest-ranking police couple in the department for not properly reporting a patrol vehicle accident. He relieved a popular sergeant-at-arms from duty and demoted four majors, including one of the city’s highest-ranking Black female officers, without explanation.
He posed for a selfie — unaware, he said — that it was with a leading member of South Florida’s white nationalist group the Proud Boys. He’s rankled members of the judiciary by repeatedly blasting them for early inmate releases from prison and jail. He’s also angered commissioners by filling at least one high-ranking position with someone he worked with in Houston and by trying to create a post for another former subordinate.
The city’s Fraternal Order of Police has taken particular umbrage towards Acevedo over the past few months. President Tommy Reyes was incensed over an interview Acevedo did with a Spanish language radio personality in which the chief warned officers to get vaccinated or find another job.
The poll, which began Tuesday morning and ends at midnight Wednesday, is far from scientific. Still, it could offer a peek into the mind-set of the city’s 1,300 sworn officers. It asks two questions: Do you have confidence in Chief Acevedo to lead the Miami Police Department? And, should Chief Acevedo be fired or forced to resign?
The poll is being done through email and the questions were sent to everyone on Reyes’ email list, which also includes hundreds of retired officers. Reyes said he has requested that only non-retirees respond, though that could prove hard to quantify because the responses are anonymous.
The union president also admitted the poll is being taken this week in advance of Monday’s meeting because it’s “on the same topic.”
Just last week, Reyes complained that the chief was being hypocritical for not filing a report on a smudge mark and slight damage to a fender on his personal unmarked vehicle. Earlier this year he fired Deputy Chief Ron Papier and his wife, Cmdr. Nerly Papier, for not properly reporting an accident Nerly Papier had in her city-issued SUV.
After some high-ranking officers claimed to have found nothing more than a smudge mark that they wiped clean, the city manager weighed in. Art Noriega, generally shy about using social media to express points of view, said he personally reviewed the facts and it “seems to be another attempt by the Fraternal Order of Police to baselessly undermine our police chief.”
The city’s independent Civilian Investigative Panel will also look into the alleged damage to the chief’s vehicle after someone filed an anonymous complaint. But that doesn’t necessarily mean the chief did anything wrong. The panel, which looks into potential police misconduct, investigates every complaint that comes before it.
Commissioners set to question Acevedo are also still a bit steamed over the way Noriega and Mayor Francis Suarez hired Acevedo. The two halted a lengthy search for a new chief in March that included several internal candidates — some supported by commissioners — when they announced the surprise hiring of Acevedo. He was Houston’s police chief at the time and a national figure who became popular marching alongside Black Lives Matter members during last summer’s marches.
Acevedo had not responded to interview requests by late morning Wednesday.
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