Miami city commissioners voted unanimously to end the city’s police chief Thursday after six violent months that included consequential damages and feuds with lawmakers.
Commissioners Joe Carollo, Manolo Reyes, Alex Díaz de la Portilla, Jeffrey Watson and Ken Russell all agreed to accept a recommendation from Mayor Arthur Noriega to fire Art Acevedo, who came to town earlier this year with great fanfare after leading police departments in Houston and Austin, Texas.
Noriega suspended Acevedo earlier this week for the purpose of firing him. In a letter, he outlined several reasons for the suspension, including allegedly losing trustees of officials, failing to report personal and vacation time, pushing for mandatory COVID-19 vaccines, making unauthorized hires and using the term “Cuban” Mafia “to describe city leadership.
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Thursday’s hearing served as a de facto trial with Noriega and Acevedo on opposite sides, and the commissioners acted as judges. They heard hours of testimony about Acevedo’s behavior as a boss.
Manny Morales, an assistant chief who is now the interim police chief, said Acevedo had lost the officers’ trust. He recalled a moment when Acevedo allegedly once said the department “was full of spines and snakes.”
“It’s a number of things, but it may lead to the systematic demoralization of the police department,” Morales said.
Acevedo, 57, was present during the court hearing at City Hall, which was sometimes disputed. His lawyer, John Byrne, accused lawmakers of trying to dismiss his client in retaliation for a violent eight-page memo he sent about alleged errors by three commissioners he accused of interfering in an internal investigation and in police reform attempts.
Byrne also claimed that Thursday’s result was predetermined and that the defense did not have ample time to prepare. He called no witnesses.
“Based on what we have seen here today, it is clear that the Commissioners do not have a valid basis for dismissing Chief Acevedo,” Byrne said. “If boss Acevedo could say something that would make a difference, he would. It’s very clear what’s going on.”
Commissioner Joe Carollo repeatedly asked Acevedo to offer a defense.
“Waste of time for me today was that the right defense was not given,” Russell said. “We can not defend you if you do not defend yourself. Unless the larger legal strategy is to take this to a higher court.”
After the hearing, the former boss thanked those who supported him.
“From day one, I made it clear that Miami Police had to commit to constitutional police,” he said, the Miami Herald reported. “The department was and still is in need of reform. I regret that I do not have the opportunity to continue to serve.”
Acevedo never applied for the job, but was recruited while in Houston and was heavily hailed by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez. He was seen as a reformer after calling for gun control and greater police responsibility.
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However, his appointment was examined by Commissioners. He angered additional officials when he told officers that “the Cuban mafia” is running the city.
Acevedo, a Cuban who grew up in Los Angeles, later apologized, saying his intention was to “highlight the importance of diversity within our own ranks and facilitate our discussion.”