Latest Spat for Miami’s Top Cop: Comparing City Leaders to Cuban Dictators

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Chief Art Acevedo was a flashy prosecute erstwhile helium arrived successful Miami six months ago. Now his occupation is successful peril aft a bid of clashes with metropolis commissioners.

Art Acevedo, Miami’s constabulary  chief, greeted members of the Police Department extracurricular  of a peculiar   City Commission gathering  connected  Monday.
Credit...Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

Patricia Mazzei

Sept. 27, 2021, 7:09 p.m. ET

MIAMI — The hiring of Art Acevedo arsenic Miami’s constabulary main seemed similar an perfect match. Chief Acevedo, caller disconnected a high-profile stint successful Houston, brought stature and swagger to a metropolis infatuated with both. And arsenic a Cuban migrant maintaining instrumentality and bid successful the country’s largest attraction of Cuban Americans, his accomplishment had an aerial of celebratory inevitability.

That was six months ago. Now Chief Acevedo is astatine the halfway of an archetypal Miami governmental drama, replete with references to Cuban Communism and corruption, that has roiled City Hall and threatened his job.

Even earlier helium moved to Miami, Chief Acevedo was thing of a personage constabulary chief, known arsenic an outspoken professional of erstwhile President Donald J. Trump — contempt being a Republican himself — and arsenic a salient proponent of constabulary reform, particularly toward communities of colour and immigrants.

But the Miami imbroglio is not implicit policy. It is simply a clash of personalities betwixt an ambitious caller outsider and almighty metropolis commissioners miffed implicit some Chief Acevedo’s astonishment assignment and his inclination to accidental precisely what helium thinks.

“He was idiosyncratic who could travel successful from the extracurricular and truly effect change,” Art Noriega, the metropolis manager, told the City Commission successful a chaotic gathering connected Monday. “Where we’re astatine contiguous successful peculiar is simply a relation of the benignant and the mode successful which that alteration is effectuated.”

Chief Acevedo has accused respective commissioners of thwarting his attempts to “change the culture” of the department, arsenic helium said helium had been hired to do, by improperly meddling successful unit decisions.

“These events are profoundly troubling and sad,” helium wrote successful an eight-page letter connected Friday successful which helium denounced however commissioners tried to power an interior affairs probe and past retaliated by defunding apical positions successful the Police Department’s budget. “If I oregon M.P.D. springiness successful to the improper actions described herein,” helium added, “as a Cuban immigrant, I and my household mightiness arsenic good person remained successful Communist Cuba, due to the fact that Miami and M.P.D. would beryllium nary amended than the repressive authorities and the constabulary authorities we near behind.”

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Credit...Scott McIntyre for The New York Times

The governmental combat played retired connected Monday successful a agelong airing of grievances by commissioners who demanded an probe into Chief Acevedo’s past, his hiring and his caller actions — efficaciously putting unit connected the metropolis manager to occurrence him. Commissioners cannot occurrence him due to the fact that helium does not straight enactment for them.

It was an unexpected crook some for the main and for Miami, which has tried to beryllium it is simply a mature metropolis acceptable to gully superior tech investors, lone to find itself entangled successful an disfigured conflict implicit its sixth constabulary main successful 11 years. It was lone this twelvemonth that the Justice Department ended 5 years of oversight of the Police Department, which began aft an probe into the constabulary killings of 7 Black men.

Chief Acevedo was expected to bring that epoch to a decision by enacting reforms and promoting an equitable, merit-based concatenation of bid successful the constabulary force.

But helium wasted nary clip successful generating contention of his own. He terminated 2 high-ranking officers and demoted the department’s second-highest-ranking pistillate Black officer. He said his ain section — alternatively than the Florida Department of Law Enforcement — should analyse constabulary shootings. And helium angered the constabulary national by telling a section vigor presumption that officers should get vaccinated against the coronavirus oregon hazard losing their jobs.

Last week, a bulk of members polled by the Fraternal Order of Police said that they had nary assurance successful the main and that helium should beryllium fired oregon forced to resign.

Meantime, Chief Acevedo was making caller enemies extracurricular the Police Department arsenic well.

At a objection successful enactment of state activists successful Cuba extracurricular Miami’s iconic Versailles restaurant, the main was caught posing for a photograph with a salient subordinate of the Proud Boys. (He did not cognize who it was, the main said.) Someone that time besides recorded him swearing astatine a antheral who asked wherefore helium hung retired with Marxists and Communists and supported the Black Lives Matter movement.

What particularly incensed commissioners, successful summation to the housecleaning astatine Police Headquarters, was erstwhile Chief Acevedo told a radical of officers this summertime that the section was tally by a “Cuban mafia.” The main aboriginal apologized, saying helium intended it arsenic a gag and had not realized that Fidel Castro had utilized the aforesaid operation to notation to Cuban exiles successful Miami who opposed his Communist regime.

The commissioners’ gathering to face the main connected Monday rapidly devolved into Miami-style governmental theatrics.

At 1 point, Commissioner Joe Carollo frame-grabbed a video clip of Chief Acevedo, taken earlier helium worked successful Miami, performing a raunchy creation astatine a fund-raiser. (In different clip, helium was dressed similar Elvis, prompting Mr. Carollo to tut-tut the tightness of the chief’s pants.)

A protagonist of the main astatine 1 constituent yelled astatine the dais and, arsenic helium stomped retired of the chambers, extended a digit to the commissioners.

Mr. Carollo spent respective hours speechmaking quality clippings and different documents astir Chief Acevedo’s grounds successful instrumentality enforcement agencies successful California and Texas, including astatine slightest 1 allegation of intersexual harassment that the main has denied. Mr. Carollo repeatedly asked Mr. Noriega if helium had been alert of those controversies earlier hiring Chief Acevedo.

“No, sir,” Mr. Noriega responded.

“He’s not accountable to anyone,” Mr. Carollo said of Chief Acevedo. “He’s not accountable to the metropolis manager, not accountable to the residents of Miami — not accountable, period.”

Mayor Francis Suarez, who recruited the high-profile constabulary main from Houston successful what was wide seen arsenic a mode to bolster the mayor’s nationalist prominence up of his November re-election, did not be the meeting. Commissioner Ken Russell, the acting chairman, was absent.

Mr. Noriega said helium hired the main successful March aft Mayor Suarez heard helium mightiness beryllium disposable for the occupation and Houston’s politician recommended him. But that circumvented a hunt committee that Miami had created to reappraisal constabulary main applications. Chief Acevedo ne'er applied for the position. Now helium makes $315,000 a year, though his full compensation package, with benefits, is worthy much than $437,000.

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Credit...Joe Raedle/Getty Images

For his part, Chief Acevedo, who did not code the Commission, said successful his missive that helium believed helium had angered immoderate of the commissioners by refusing to apprehension unspecified “agitators” and “Communists” astatine a nationalist gathering successful June — determination were nary agitators, his officers aboriginal concluded — and by declining to get caught up successful commissioners’ unsubstantiated claims of codification enforcement violations successful 1 another’s districts.

The section had “wasted untold hours” doing investigations due to the fact that of the “improper governmental influence” of these commissioners, helium said.

Monday’s gathering began an hr late. Commissioners past took a two-hour luncheon break. When they yet allowed nationalist comment, 5 hours in, radical lined up astatine the microphones, galore of them aggravated astatine their elected officials for the day’s spectacle. Others raised commissioners’ ain notorious records. Quite a fewer supported the chief.

The gathering ended successful the evening, with commissioners scheduling a follow-up treatment for Friday. The enigma of Chief Acevedo’s destiny lingered.

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