Miami Beach is a shallow place. The right car can get you laid. The wrong shoes can get you kicked out of a club. Hell, even the dive bars have dress codes. But can looking poor get you arrested?
It did for Dale Picardat. Now the city owes him $100,000.
You might have met Picardat without remembering it. The bespectacled 56-year-old serves suds to Dolphins fans at Sun Life Stadium.
The morning of August 21, 2009, however, he had a favor to do for his ex-wife. Picardat, carrying a bag of tools to install hurricane-proof windows, hopped on a bus headed from his house in Little Haiti toward her home in the ritzy gated community of Normandy Shores.
Dressed in jeans, a T-shirt, and a baseball cap, Picardat began walking toward his ex's house. Along the way, he passed local resident and Miami Beach Police Officer Glenn Teboe.
The cop pulled his squad car alongside Picardat and demanded to know if he lived in the area. Picardat said no. When Teboe asked him if he worked in the area, Picardat said, "What's with all the questions?" according to Teboe's report.
The bartender gave his name but wouldn't hand over his ID or his bag. He asked for his attorney. Instead, he got handcuffed.
Teboe arrested Picardat for loitering/prowling and resisting an officer. He wrote in his report that Picardat "could (or would) not dispel my fear for safety of property and citizens." Picardat says the cop just wanted to search his bag illegally and got mad when he refused.
"I was just minding my own business and walking," says Picardat. "But Teboe just saw a guy with a bag and who looked like he didn't belong."
Picardat spent the day in jail -- where he was beaten by a corrections officer for complaining about conditions (the subject of a 2010 New Times article) -- before the bogus charges were dropped.
Picardat then sued the City of Miami Beach for false arrest. Teboe's thin argument didn't hold up in court. This past February 28, a jury awarded Picardat $100,000 plus attorney's fees.
"It's always been that way on Miami Beach," Picardat says of police profiling. "It goes back to when Jews weren't allowed south of 41st Street. Or when I was growing up here, if you were black, God forbid you drive down the street. You'd get picked up for your skin alone."
"This is just another kind of discrimination," he says. "The loitering and prowling charge is just a catch-all so that cops can stop and search anybody whenever you want."
The city has already appealed the verdict, but the bartender might have already won a bigger battle. Picardat says his case has forced Miami Beach police to stop using bogus loitering charges against undesirables.
"They have had to retrain their police officers," says Picardat, who adds that such arrests have dropped from roughly 200 in 2009 to just six last year.
"We all have constitutional rights," he says. "If cops do something wrong, you have to stand up to them. The Constitution doesn't benefit you in any form if you don't use it."
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