Art Noriega, the City Manager, moved Monday night to fire Chief Police Officer Art Acevedo. This was a result of weeks of speculation after two circus-like public hearings in which city commissioners criticised Acevedo for everything. He made a tone-deaf comment about the Cuban Mafia controlling the department and he also wore a tight jumpsuit years ago at a fundraiser in another town.
Technically, Acevedo was suspended by the manager in anticipation of termination. This forced Acevedo to appear before a five-member panel with three vocal critics.
Three weeks ago Acevedo had inflamed three Cuban-American commissioners by accusing them both of interfering in police investigations and comparing their actions with Communist Cuba. His brief tenure was filled with controversial decisions, gaffes and embarrassing moments like taking a photo with one of South Florida's white nationalist leaders, the Proud Boys.
Noriega issued a statement Monday night stating that the situation between Acevedo (57) and the city was becoming untenable.
Noriega said that the relationship between Chief Acevedo and the police force he heads, as well as the community, has gone sour. The relationship between employees and employers is determined by their leadership style and fit. Unfortunately, Chief Acevedo does not fit the criteria for this organization.
Acevedo, just moments before Noriega made his statement, sent an email to the city's senior staff and 1,300 sworn officers. He said it was a privilege serving alongside you and fighting for your cause but did not say if he would resign before a vote by the commission on his future.
Acevedo stated to his staff that he would continue fighting to get rid of MPD [Miami Police Department] from political interference from City Hall. This continues to negatively affect this organization.
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Although Acevedo was criticized by many city commissioners for firings, hirings, and demotions within his department, only Alex Daz de la Portilla urged the firing of the chiefs before Monday.
A dishonest and arrogant police chief would naturally result in his dismissal, stated the commissioner. His poor actions speak for themselves. As a result, our city, our police officers, and our residents will all be better off.
Acevedo's term in Miami will end soon. This is a shock for Acevedo, a highly-respected national figure who comes from a larger Houston department. When Acevedo was first introduced, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez described him as "the Michael Jordan or Tom Brady" of police chiefs.
Acevedo caused anger in six months by making a series of comments and decisions that were not consistent with city leaders. Noriega was Acevedos boss, and was ultimately responsible for Acevedos hire.
Acevedo, who has assumed control of internal affairs since April, publicly criticized the legal community for early prisoner release and short sentences. He also fired the highest-ranking police couple in the department because they failed to properly report an accident in which two tires had been blown from a city-issued vehicle. He also degraded four majors, including the highest ranking Black female officer in that department.
Acevedo accidentally took a photo with one of the Proud Boys leaders.
The end of his term was clear when he called the Miami Police Department's officers the Cuban Mafia. This term was used by Fidel Castro to describe Miami Cuban exiles who voted against his dictatorship. Acevedo was born in Havana and raised in Los Angeles, and he claimed ignorance and apologized.
His relationship with the five city commissioners that direct Noriega has only gotten worse. He sent a memo to Noriega, Mayor Francis Suarez three weeks ago in which he accused Commissioners Joe Carollo and Alex Diaz de la Portilla of interfering police investigations. He also stated that he had informed federal investigators, and compared the actions of the three to Communist Cuba.
Acevedo is one of three Cuban-American city commissioners who fled Cuba after their children were born. The families of all three suffered a lot since Castro's 60 year ago takeover. The commissioners were furious and called for two public hearings last Wednesday in which they criticized the chief without any rebuttal.
They argued for over 20 hours in two days about Acevedo's decisions and miscues. The chief also discussed problems he encountered while on leave with the California Highway Patrol as well as his duties in Austin and Houston as chief of police.
Carollo, the leader of the charge, made a spectacle by asking the chiefs their choice in clothing. He was videotaped at an Austin fundraiser wearing a tight one-piece jumpsuit and imitating Elvis Presley at a fundraiser. Carollo asked the uncomfortable city manager if he expected that from his chief police officer.
Acevedo also created more animosity in the days that separated the hearings of the chief's commission. The chief spoke to staff in a fiery, grievance-filled, 75-minute speech. He stated that he had sufficient probable cause to arrest those who obstructed police investigations, but did not name commissioners.
They took note, and Noriega too, during Friday's second and final hearing, told commissioners that they didn't need to worry about being arrested.
Multiple sources claim that the chief called Miami "a corrupt city" during the meeting. He said that he could fix it if he was allowed to hire the right people. To stop his plans, he also complained about the removal of several high-ranking positions by commissioners. After the outburst of the chiefs, the normally boisterous staff was stunned to silence.
Noriega, furious, sent a memo to Acevedo requesting a review of his division. He stated that Acevedo lacked certain cultural awareness and sensitivity training in regard to the community and its residents.
Carollo stated Monday that despite being adamant about Acevedo's conduct during hearings two week ago, he was surprised Noriega took such a quick decision. The commissioner refused to vote to end Acevedo's stay in Miami.
Carollo said that she will listen with an open mind to any defense the manager offers on his firing. Then I will speak up and declare my resolve at that point.
For Monday night's comment, Jeffrey Watson and Ken Russell, Commissioners of the Interior, were unable to be reached immediately.
Suarez, who championed Suarez's March hire, has repeatedly declined to state his position on the chief. Monday's Herald interview with the mayor was not answered by the mayor.
Reyes stated that he expected Noriega would take action but, like Carollo did not specify how he would vote on Acevedos fate.
Reyes stated that he wanted to hear his thoughts. This will be like a trial and we must respect the principle.