MIAMI — Chief Art Acevedo has been suspended by the City of Miami with the intent to fire him after a controversial six months at the helm in which he’s been in conflict with local leaders.
Miami City Manager Art Noriega said the relationship between the city and Acevedo had become “untenable and needed to be resolved promptly,” in a released statement, WPLG-TV.
Noriega’s statement read as follows:
“Today, I suspended Police Chief Art Acevedo with the intent to terminate his employment, consistent with the City Charter.
The relationship between the Chief and the organization has become untenable and needed to be resolved promptly. 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.
It is now time to move forward with the search for new leadership at MPD. Assistant Police Chief Manny Morales will be appointed as interim chief as the City engages in the search for a permanent replacement.”
Removing the top cop comes as Acevedo and several Miami City Commissioners have had a very public feud. Commissioner Joe Carollo and two others wanted the chief removed.
Acevedo accused city hall of interfering with police work.
In an email to the police department obtained by WPLG-TV, Acevedo said he promises to “continue to fight the good fight to rid MPD of the political interference from city hall that unfortunately continues to negatively impact this organization.”
Acevedo, 57, hired on earlier this year after spending time as the chief of police in Houston and Austin. Prior to that he worked for the California Highway Patrol.
Recently, city commissioners held two meetings where they discussed Acevedo’s actions. Moreover, they called for a probe into his hiring after he wrote a scathing eight-page memo to Noriega accusing some city leaders of interfering with police reform efforts and an internal investigation. Commissioners Joe Carollo, Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Manolo Reyes were reportedly the ire of his scorn, Fox News reported.
“If I or MPD give in to the improper actions described herein, as a Cuban Immigrant, I and my family might as well have remained in communist Cuba, because Miami and the MPD would be no better than the repressive regime and the police state we left behind,” Acevedo concluded his memo.
The chief also came under fire for saying, “It’s like the Cuban Mafia runs the Miami PD,” which angered the city’s Cuban exile community. Acevedo, who is Cuban and was raised in Los Angeles, later apologized for the remark, saying his intent was to “highlight the importance of diversity within our own ranks and to lighten our discussion.”
Last month, Acevedo was under investigation by the city’s Citizens Investigative Panel for an offense similar to circumstances that led to the termination of two high ranking officers earlier this year. The firings were at his direction, Law Officer reported.
The investigation of Acevedo was related to damage on his city-issued SUV. NBC 6 obtained photos that show scratches and other minor damage on Acevedo’s unmarked Chevy Tahoe. The local news outlet was told by a police source the bumper was separated in the front of the vehicle.
According to a complaint filed against Acevedo, the vehicle sustained damage sometime between Sept. 6 and Sept. 10. It also alleges that he should have disclosed the collision damage to the department several days before it was eventually revealed.
“No police report was generated to document the damages as required by the City of Miami Departmental Orders,” the complaint said.
Miami Police Union President Tommy Reyes said he took the photos several days after first seeing the damage and prior to the Sept. 10 police memo that described the damage and the investigation into it, NBC 6 reported.
Furthermore, the rankle with police personnel was likely exacerbated since earlier this year, two top-ranking Miami police officers — Commander Nerly Papier and her husband Deputy Chief Ronald Papier — were terminated after she got into an accident and the department determined rules were violated in the manner it was handled.
“It appears to be pretty hypocritical that we had someone who was fired not too long ago for the same type of incident — who was fired for not reporting I would say a minor crash — was fired, and now it appears the chief has committed the same infraction,” Reyes argued.
Through a department spokesperson, Acevedo told NBC 6 that he welcomed the investigation and called the allegations baseless. He claimed the complaint was an attempt to hinder his ability to reform and improve the department.
However, the anonymous Citizens Complaint alleges the timeline of the damage and the reporting of it is “clearly an attempt to cover up the damages and how Chief Acevedo’s vehicle was damaged.”
Reyes said the conflict was simply a microcosm of trouble in the department.
“The members have made it pretty clear. The morale sucks right now. They are not happy. Cops don’t want to come to work,” Reyes said. “They are afraid to do their job and I did an internal survey and the survey was actually pretty shocking for me. The numbers were pretty high. I don’t think the members want to work for Art Acevedo anymore.”
It is unclear if the investigation by the city’s Citizens Investigative Panel contributed to Acevedo’s demise as Miami’s police chief.
In August, Acevedo had another dust up with his personnel, which had the appearance of hypocrisy. In the incident, Officer Daniel Ubeda used the hand signal identified as “ok” or the “number 3” during a photo taken with partners at the department following a big gun bust. A commander posted the photo on Twitter and Acevedo relieved Ubeda of duty pending an internal affairs investigation to conclude if the hand gestures represented “White Power,” Law Officer reported.
Reyes said the finger gesture meant a total of “six” as in the number of colleagues on the officer’s shift, not white power.
It’s also noteworthy that Ubeda’s supervisor and the commander who tweeted the photo are black, and that they never raised any issues, according to reports.
Shortly after Ubeda was relieved of duty, a picture of Acevedo surfaced showing him making the same hand gesture while he was chief of police in Houston.
Chief Troy Finner of the Houston Police Department said he was present when the photo of Acevedo was taken where he was “throwing up the threes.”
“That’s at Jack Yates High School, Third Ward. There’s so much pride. That’s a historically African-American community in Houston. If you talk to any Third Ward person, they call it ‘throwing up the threes,” Finner said.
Nevertheless, Acevedo’s detractors jumped on his apparent hypocrisy.
With everything that has occurred in a short period of time, it appears as though the mounting conflicts faced by Acevedo in Miami have come to a tumultuous conclusion.