Uniformed Miami cop wearing pro-Trump mask at voting site will be disciplined
The officer's union representatives defended him, saying the officer was simply expressing his First Amendment right
By Charles Rabin and Joey Flechas
MIAMI — A uniformed Miami police officer was photographed sporting a protective mask with a pro-Trump slogan while on duty and voting at Government Center Tuesday morning.
The backlash from his department was swift.
Miami's police chief, after seeing the photo posted on social media, said Officer Daniel Ubeda would be disciplined. Though exactly how had not been determined. The mayor also called the officer's actions "inappropriate," even if he was there to cast a ballot.
"It's a violation of departmental orders. A police officer is supposed to be impartial," Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said from City Hall Tuesday afternoon. "Irrespective of who the person was, whatever sign it would have been, it would've been problematic."
The person who happened to spot Ubeda was the chairman of the Miami-Dade Democratic Party, Steve Simeonidis.
Simeonidis, an attorney who works downtown, said he was passing through Government Center when he spotted Ubeda "well within" the 150-foot barrier that police and campaigners are not permitted under state statute during an election if they are endorsing a candidate. He photographed the officer and tweeted about the encounter.
"He may have been going to vote. But he was in full uniform with the mask and a gun. That's voter intimidation," Simeonidis said.
Simeonidis said Ubeda "laughed it off" after he was questioned about the mask.
Here is @CityofMiami Police Officer Daniel Ubeda, in full uniform with badge and gun wearing his Trump mask inside of the polling location in government center.— Steve Simeonidis (@stevesimeonidis) October 20, 2020
This is city funded voter intimidation.
Ubeda should be suspended immediately. pic.twitter.com/TbJxu6mcem
Deputy Police Chief Ron Papier said he spoke with Chief Jorge Colina and that the "appropriate disciplinary action" will be taken against Ubeda.
"Obviously this is a clear violation of our department policy regarding campaigning while on duty," Papier said. "Additionally, the mask has offensive language, which is also a violation of department policy."
The mask read "Trump 2020" and "no more bulls _ " on its front.
Ubeda's union representatives defended him, saying the officer was simply expressing his First Amendment right. Fraternal Order of Police President Tommy Reyes said Ubeda had just voted and was in Government Center for no more than 10 minutes when he was photographed. He also said Florida statute permits police to vote in uniform.
Said Reyes: "We would also like to state that the national FOP has endorsed President Donald Trump's reelection."
Simeonidis' tweet and photograph quickly went viral, earning almost 100,000 impressions by mid-afternoon. Keon Hardemon, who is running for a Miami-Dade County Commission seat, said the officer's actions were the reason some people are "afraid" of the police.
"It's easy. No political speech in uniform. Whatsoever," the former Miami commissioner posted on Twitter.
It also got national attention. Rick Wilson, a former field operations director in Florida during President George W. Bush's run for office who is among a group of anti- Trump Republicans behind the Lincoln Project ad campaign, weighed in on Twitter.
"I think officer Ubeda wants to be famous," Wilson said.
Intimidation at the polls has been a major talking point this election cycle, with the divisiveness and at times violence that has broken out at events and dueling protests between Trump and his challenger, former Vice President Joe Biden.
And police, whether on duty or not and like the public, are only permitted within 150 feet of a polling site if they are voting. Guns are also not permitted for the general public, concealed or otherwise, though there are exceptions to the statute for police.
On Monday, Suarez and Colina announced they were deploying plain-clothed officers near voting sites after receiving an unusually large amount of emails and messages from voters who they said were worried about violence and intimidation at any of Miami's four voting sites.
Also Monday, an on-duty Hialeah police officer was spotted standing with his arms crossed at the entrance to the JFK Library, the city's largest voting site. After seeing the photo, an election official said she called staff at the library and the officer had moved on.