Fed probe sought by FL NAACP branch

Cursten Taylor | 12/17/2013, 1:26 p.m.

The FL state conference of NAACP branches and its Miami-Dade County branch have asked U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder to review the Miami Gardens Police Department’s treatment of Blacks who have allegedly faced harassment and misconduct at the hands of the Miami Gardens police officers. The NAACP made its intentions known last Tuesday during a phone-in press conference intended to local media.

The Department has implemented a “zero tolerance” initiative in which the Department will stop anyone deemed by officers to be posing a safety threat. This policy has come under scrutiny due to the amount of Black residents who have been stopped and searched by police under the zero tolerance initiative. Miami Gardens residents have recently filed lawsuits against the police department for civil rights violations and discrimination.

“We want people to be safe and know that the police are there to protect them,” said Adora Obi Nweze, president of the NAACP Florida State Conference. “We don’t want to be put on a list and be targeted for more harassment.”

The NAACP has obtained video recordings from Miami Gardens store owner Alex Saleh, which show police officers regularly questioning, frisking and arresting people who were not committing any crimes and had permission to be on the property. Many residents have filed complaints against the Department, but without proper oversight the NAACP feels that the Miami Gardens Police Department will not properly conduct the investigations into the allegations against the Department.

“Those who may be fearful of coming forward to the public are less likely to have that fear when talking to federal investigators because they are not scared of retaliation, Nweze said. “And we want the public to know that the NAACP will remain vigilant on this issue and see it to its conclusion.”

Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver Gilbert says he was not contacted by the NAACP and found their request “interesting.”

“This may be more of an internal affairs issue for the Miami Gardens Police Department and may well be a violation of our Department’s professional standards,” he said. “The State Attorneys Office said they did not find there to be any criminal actions committed by our officers.

Some of what seems to be discussed is information that comes from media reports which may or may not be accurate. I’m content to let the investigation go forward but I’m also confident that our city manager will get to the bottom of this.”

D. Kevin McNeir assisted with this report.