Just two days after the NAACP said the Miami Gardens Police Department might be committing "the most pervasive, most invasive, and most unjustified pattern of police harassment in the nation," the city's police chief has resigned.
Matthew Boyd was the first and only person to lead the force, which was formed in 2007. The officers have been accused of racially profiling both customers and employees at a local convenience store that was participating in a "zero tolerance" program meant to reduce crime by aggressively targeting suspicious-looking people. Store owner Alex Saleh got much more than he bargained for when he agreed to participate in the program. Perhaps most egregiously: One employee of the Quickstop 207, Earl Sampson, was arrested 419 times for trespassing in the past five years, according to city records.
In response, Saleh installed 15 video cameras to record the routine harassment and to call into question how somebody can be trespassing while they're at work. After the Miami Herald released some of his footage last month of cops manhandling elderly patrons and illegally searching the premises, it became national news reported by media outlets such as NPR and MSNBC.
Despite the national outrage, Boyd was quick to defend his police officers. He cited Miami Gardens' zero-tolerance policy and its high crime rate, which is indeed among the highest in the county. (Last year the area saw 25 murders, 16 forcible rapes, and 369 robberies, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.) Still, Quickstop 207 has never been robbed once in the 17 years that Saleh has owned the store.
The State Attorney's Office looked into complaints about the policy last year and uncovered no wrongdoing. Now the NAACP is calling for an investigation by Attorney General Eric Holder. "Absent federal oversight, and intervention, the NAACP has no confidence that the Miami Gardens Police Department or other city officials will willingly conduct a complete and impartial investigation," the organization said in a news release. The MGPD is undergoing its own internal affairs investigation.
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"Were going to be very transparent in our process," interim police chief Paul Miller said in his first public statement last night. Miller then refused to comment on any details of the "very transparent" internal affairs investigation.
Send your story tips to the author, Allie Conti.