Carollo targets Miami police chief who is set to face commission later this month

MIAMI – Miami Chief Art Acevedo, who was born in Havana, Cuba, upset Miami Commissioner Joe Carollo after he said during a morning roll call that the “Cuban Mafia” runs the police department.

Acevedo, who grew up in California, released an apologetic statement on Twitter saying he didn’t mean to offend anyone, as he was talking about the need for diversity in the department.

“While the statement was made to be humorous, I have since learned that it is highly offensive to the exile Cuban community, of which I am a proud member. I want to thank the City of Miami Commissioners for kindly informing this morning that historically, the Castro regime referred to the exile community in Miami as ‘the Cuban Mafia.’ Having been raised in the Los Angeles area as a proud Cuban, I was not aware of this fact,” Acevedo wrote on Sept. 9.

Facing criticism isn’t new for Acevedo. Before coming to Miami from Houston, Acevedo called for gun control, marched in support of justice for George Floyd, and was critical of former President Donald Trump. Acevedo is outspoken, he has an engaging personality, and he doesn’t shy away from cameras.

During a commission meeting on Sept. 13, Carollo said the chief should “stick” to being a professional administrator and “not be out there at every event” taking selfies or doing interviews. Community policing strategies argue the opposite.

“I will be darned if I am going to let a new transplant come here and think that he could do whatever the heck he wants to do or say,” Carollo said during the meeting.

Carollo, a former Miami mayor with a 2001 domestic violence arrest and a subsequent battery charge that was dropped after an anger management class, was not involved in Acevedo’s hiring process.

City Manager Art Noriega appointed Acevedo about five months ago. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez was proud of the hiring and described Acevedo as the best chief in America.

“To me he is much more of a politician than he is a police chief,” said Tommy Reyes, the president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police. “I believe that there is a large majority of the membership that does want him out.”

Acevedo faced criticism after he said he supports COVID-19 vaccine mandates during the pandemic. There have also been unexpected firings, demotions, and hirings since his arrival.

The Miami Herald’s Editorial Board published “Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo shouldn’t lose job to Carollo” earlier this week. Carollo and other Miami commissioners plan to question Acevedo during a public Sept. 27 commission meeting.

About the Authors:

In January 2017, Hatzel Vela became the first local television journalist in the country to move to Cuba and cover the island from the inside. During his time living and working in Cuba, he covered some of the most significant stories in a post-Fidel Castro Cuba. 

The Emmy Award-winning journalist joined the Local 10 News team in 2013. She wrote for the Miami Herald for more than 9 years and won a Green Eyeshade Award.