The Miami Beach Police Department is being accused of racially profiling and overpolicing Black spring breakers.
Videos of violent confrontations between Black spring breakers and police officers circulated around Twitter over the weekend. In one video, officers were trying to disperse a crowd after a fight broke out.
As two men began to walk away, an officer grabbed one by the arm. When the spring breaker snatched his arm away, both of the men were tackled by several MBPD officers. While the men were being arrested, other officers shot pellets to disperse the crowd. The two men were later charged with resisting arrest without violence.
In another video, a police officer appeared to be chasing someone when he collides with a young woman who came running into his path.
After the officer and the woman tumble to the ground from the impact, the cop quickly gets to his feet and shoves the woman, who appeared to kick at him in response. The officer then grabbed her by the neck and pinned her to the asphalt. She was arrested and charged with resisting arrest without violence and battery against a police officer. The MBPD claims the woman purposefully interfered with the chase.
In yet another video, a young Black man is lying on the ground while a MBPD officer holds him in a headlock.
The treatment of Black spring breakers drew the fire of the Miami-Dade chapter of the NAACP, the Miami New Times reported. The advocacy organization wants MBPD police Chief Richard Clements and Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales removed from their posts.
According to chapter president Ruban Roberts, the organization had a positive relationship with Clements’ predecessor, Dan Oates, and warned the city that Clements would increase violent police interactions. His worries were validated when he saw MBPD officers outfitted in riot gear.
“There’s no justification other than intimidation for them to wear that gear and for them to have those guns,” Roberts said.
Roberts is upset with Morales because he says any decision made by the police department must be approved by the city of Miami Beach.
“Any action the officers take or the chief takes, whether it’s using riot gear or assault rifles and bullets, has to have approval from the mayor and city manager,” Roberts said.
Jeanne Baker, chair of ACLU Florida’s police practice committee, told the Miami Herald the MBPD “has a long and troubled history of racial discrimination.” According to the outlet, in the 1930s, Black workers couldn’t travel to Miami Beach unless they had a work permit and submitted headshots and fingerprints to the police. In 2011, the Miami Beach police were criticized for the death of Raymond Herisse, who was killed when officers fired more than 100 bullets into his car. Four bystanders were hit by the gunfire but survived.
Sources told the Miami Herald there would be an internal conversation, but Clements is defending the department’s behavior in public.
“If you come to Miami Beach to cause problems, we will intervene and take enforcement action,” Clements said in a statement.
Kevin Millan, president of the Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police, also defended the officers’ actions.
“The videos, along with the police officer’s body camera footage, captured the hostile crowd, fights, and disorderly actions of numerous spring breakers,” Millan said.
Roberts didn’t go as far as calling city officials racist, but he believes race is a factor in the treatment of Black visitors.
“I’m not calling Jimmy or the mayor racist, but it has racial overtones when you only do that with one population,” he said. “You can’t tell me that on the other spring break weeks when you have white college kids come down, the kids don’t also act unruly. Why is that different? There’s only one common denominator.”