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Talking with Miami’s new police chief about what may follow him here from Houston

Houston police chief Art Acevedo is heading to Miami, but some people in Houston say it is his way of getting out of town.

MIAMI, Fla. – In the wake of Monday’s surprise announcement that Houston’s police chief would be Miami’s next top cop, we are learning more about him. We are also learning about lawsuits linked to high-profile police incidents under his watch.

At a news conference in Houston this week, KPRC-TV’s Mario Diaz ask this:

“Chief, your move comes at a time when crime fighting strategies are not working.”

Art Acevedo shut him down.

Diaz tells us that in the city of Houston they have seen homicides skyrocket in the last 14 months. “It is the No. 1 safety concern for any Houstonian and many people view it as one of the driving forces for him to go to Miami — the meteoric rise in homicides in Houston.”

Diaz also points to mounting lawsuits related to two high-profile, police-related incidents during Acevedo’s tenure that includes the 2019 Harding street raid, a botched raid where cops lied and two people died inside their home.

Diaz said that Acevedo must go back to Houston from Miami to address the scandal and the families believe it is one of the key reasons why he bolted to the Magic City.

“That’s not my history I don’t cut and run,” Acevedo said.

On Thursday, Local 10 News spoke one-on-one with the incoming City of Miami chief about some of these concerns, including Houston’s worrisome homicide rate.

We asked: “What would you then be doing differently or a lesson learned from your time in Houston so we don’t have a repeat here in Miami of homicides going up on your watch.”

Acevedo responded: “First of all, if you talk to sociologists, homicides are the most challenging.”

The chief deflected from speaking to specific police strategies, instead directing attention toward what he believes is an inefficient court system.

“Amid the pandemic, we had over 100 murders that were committed by people who were out on bond.”

He also addressed criticism about double-speak when it comes to transparency, saying one thing in public at Monday’s news conference: “Relational policing. It’s about transparency,” but being reticent to release information to the public in practice.

(See below in depth interview with Christina Vazquez and Miami’s new police chief Art Acevedo.)

Art Acevedo, Houston's police chief, is now the top cop in Miami. See the Local 10 interview.

Diaz says: “Many people in Houston will tell you they truly have not seen transparency from Chief Art Acevedo. I believe there has only been one police bodycam video that I can point to that has been released under his watch. "

Acevedo fires back by saying: “It is important for people to know that no matter how much you want to be transparent, there is also a process, and process matters, Police officers that go rogue, police officers that you take administrative action against, they are going to have good lawyers and they are going to have everything at their disposal to try and remain in the force and try to escape justice. So our No. 1 responsibility is to ensure we conduct the investigation and the release of the information in a way that does not impact the final outcome.”

The Houston Chronicle released an editorial titled: “As police chief, Acevedo knew showing up was half the battle.”

As for those pending lawsuits in Houston to include a $100 million civil suit related to the police shooting death of Nicolas Chavez coming one day after Miami named Acevedo as the next chief, Acevedo says:

“I am confident it will be important for people of Miami to see as the cases progress what role this chief played in bringing to light what they bad things were. I hope you give me a chance to show you my heart, my work, and my commitment to constitutional policing, your safety and always doing the right thing.”

Local 10 News asked Miami’s city manager and mayor about the concerns coming out of Houston and if the city’s rising homicide rate and pending lawsuits related to police incidents were known during the secretive recruiting process, but neither responded to our request for an interview.

Acevedo’s hiring was announced Monday.

Acevedo’s name was never on the list of candidates Miami’s City Manager’s Office presented to the public as contenders for the Chief of Police position which included five internal candidates.

Acevedo says he hopes to start no later than May 1.

About the Author:

Christina returned to Local 10 in 2019 as a reporter after covering Hurricane Dorian for the station. She is an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist and previously earned an Emmy Award while at WPLG for her investigative consumer protection segment "Call Christina."