Miami Beach police officers this week were filmed in two viral videos violently arresting multiple spring breakers. In one clip, an officer fired pepper-spray pellets near a crowd of people; in another, a large, male cop beat up an unarmed black woman.
Both videos appear to have stemmed from the same incident. The Miami Herald first reported on the footage earlier this afternoon.
In the first clip, an officer can be heard screaming, "Get the fuck out of here!" in the face of a young black man near the 900 block of Ocean Drive on South Beach just before 7 p.m. Wednesday. As the crowd walked away, one of the officers grabbed the arm of one of the partygoers and tried to handcuff him. Other cops immediately jumped in as a scuffle ensued. Cops then swarmed on the man as he screamed, and one officer placed a knee on the man's head. Another cop jumped in holding a pepper-ball gun and fired it at the ground, perilously close to the crowd. As the crowd walked away, another officer fired a pellet gun at one man's foot.
A spokesperson for the Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD) provided seven arrest reports related to the incident. Officers said a group of men had been fighting near Lummus Park and that all six were charged with resisting police without violence. In one arrest form, the cops say someone took a "bladed stance" against an officer, which led to the officer firing her pellet gun.
In a separate video, footage taken from a hotel or apartment balcony shows a gloved MBPD officer running toward a woman, body-slamming her to the ground, and then repeatedly shoving her into the asphalt before pinning her to the ground by her neck:
In an arrest form, the officers claim the woman punched a cop car, yelled "Fuck!" and then tried to run away. In arrest paperwork, officers did not mention body-slamming the woman into the ground, shoving her into the pavement, or grabbing her by the neck.
The videos have since gone viral — not just because of the brutality the footage shows but also because Miami Beach police in recent years have been accused of using increasingly harsh tactics against the mostly young black visitors who show up to party on Miami Beach during spring break and Memorial Day weekend. Critics say the incidents show that Miami Beach treats people of color poorly and sometimes violently.
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Rodney Jacobs is the assistant director of the neighboring City of Miami Civilian Investigative Panel, an independent group that investigates complaints against City of Miami police. He suggests that Miami Beach leaders ought to use these incidents as a springboard to create new police-monitoring programs citywide.
"The acts witnessed on Miami Beach should have everyone concerned," Jacobs tells New Times. "However, there is a moment for police accountability — similar to the actions taken in the City of Miami almost two decades ago. Local leaders on the Beach should ensure all these instances are investigated and to seek remedies, training for, and potential relief of duty to avoid future harm.”
Through a spokesperson, MBPD Chief Richard Clements instead seemed to back the officers' actions.
"If you come to Miami Beach to cause problems," he said, "we will intervene and take enforcement action."