MIAMI – Some advocates for police reform call Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo’s removal “disappointing,” saying that his community policing and reform agenda resonated with many in the department and the community.
“We were treated like second-class citizens, and with this chief, it felt like a brand new start,” said Sgt. Stanley Jean-Poix, president of the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association, the city’s historically Black police association.
Acevedo was suspended Monday, with City Manager Art Noriega announcing he was starting the process of firing the chief after just six months.
Stephen Hunter Johnson, an attorney who chairs the Miami-Dade Black Affairs Advisory Board, was a panelist interviewing candidates prior to Mayor Francis Suarez’s surprise March announcement that the city manager hired Acevedo from Houston.
Johnson said Acevedo was sparking police reform in the department in his first months.
“It was disappointing that the chief who was brought to offer much-needed reform was ousted in a very public and very dramatic way,” Johnson said. “When I learned bout the selection of Chief Acevedo and got to see the types of changes he was bringing to the table, those were intriguing. Those were a real step forward toward reform, the things he was doing, the emphasis on relational policies, breaking up the stagnant power structure.
“Those things were certainly things that, as a person who believes in police reform, I was looking for and was happy to see. ... We wanted the best person for the job. At the time, it seemed like Acevedo was bringing something different.”
I was a part of that panel. I remember telling the City Manager that while I favored some over others, they were well prepared and all seemed ready to steer the ship. Although, in that setting none hinted at the wholesale change that @ArtAcevedo tried to bring. https://t.co/s5UV6Y36EL— Stephen Hunter Johnson (@stephenhjohnson) October 12, 2021
Acevedo’s clash with three city commissioners was part of a fast-moving series of events that led to his suspension. But some saw progress within the department.
“A lot of the things he was doing were pretty innovative,” Jean-Poix said. “For instance, he was the first one that did a department-wide survey to try to get our opinions on matters.”
On March 15, when his hiring was announced, Acevedo said that “unless we take the time to feel that pain, process that pain, process that pain of communities of color that disproportionally are impacted by bad policing, we will never get beyond the summer of 2020.″
He added April 5 at his swearing-in that, “we will select people for positions not based on relationships but based on merit.”
“He brought back the process of interviews for specialized units,” Jean-Poix said. “Before, it was just hand-picked friends and family.
One of Acevedo’s controversial comments was the use of the term “Cuban Mafia.”
“I think his message was we need to diversify because we have other ethnicities that work here,” Jean-Poix said.
Jean-Poix also praised Acevedo’s promise to hold officers accountable for their actions.
Local 10 News asked Suarez on Tuesday if he worries Acevedo’s removal could have a chilling effect on the broader concepts of police reform.
“I sincerely hope not,” the mayor said. “Hopefully whether it’s the interim chief or whoever gets selected at the new chief will have that same spirit that all communities are heard in policing and policing tactics.”
Jean-Poix and Johnson said they hope the same ideas on police reform continue with the next chief.
“Everyone might not be the best fit for every organization, but if the ideas are solid, then the ideas should outlast the person,” Johnson said. “What I could hope for is that the next chief learns from those things that are done correctly and continues that so those officers’ voices are not continued to be missed.”
Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police did not respond to multiple requests for comment for this story.