The City of Miami Police Department is no stranger to racial rancor. Arthur McDuffie, William Lozano, and Leonardo Mercado are all names that bring to mind cop-related riots that for a decade made the Magic City synonymous with race-related violence. Now comes a new spin.

Eleven black and Hispanic officers charge in a federal lawsuit filed this summer that there exists "a systematic policy of racism in Miami police employment practices with regard to the granting ... of disability benefits."

No hearing has been scheduled and the charge is unproven. But buried in the suit is a disturbing statistic. In ten years the city's pension board, and its risk-management division, have approved 85 percent of white applicants for disability pay. Hispanic applicants were authorized for compensation at only half that rate, 42 percent. And only 50 percent of blacks were granted the cash.

The city has asked U.S. District Court Judge Donald Middlebrooks to throw out the case. The city claims the allegations are unfounded.

"It is alarming," replies Marcos Gonzalez, attorney for the minority plaintiffs. "We want to know why it's happening."

How's this for explosive hurricane-season news? A Maryland engineering firm asserts that 44 of 62 Miami-Dade hurricane shelters are unsafe.

That is what Miami Daily Business Review writer Tony Doris reported on August 16. His front-page story also disclosed that some county officials argued with the findings and that the report contained errors. Newspapers from Ottawa, Canada, to Salt Lake City, even USA Today, picked up the article. On August 20 the New York Times ran a version, incorrectly attributing the story to the Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel.

The Herald, meanwhile, was virtually silent. It ran two articles: first a mistake-marred, seven-paragraph brief on August 18, then, two days later, a 1-B story under the headline, "Storm-Shelters Report Overblown, Officials Say."

Did hubris force the Herald to downplay it? "We researched the documents and we're comfortable with the way we covered it," responds Herald managing editor Larry Olmstead. Did the newspaper know about the report before the Business Review? "I won't comment," Olmstead replies.

It's never easy for urban pioneers. Those well-heeled homesteaders at Soyka restaurant are no exception. The superstylish joint just off Biscayne Boulevard has drawn much ink and thousands of customers in its four-month life. It recently added several security personnel: a guard for the self-service lot and a couple of extra parking valets. The restaurant also bought walkie-talkies and a golf cart to make communication and patrolling easier.

How come? Ask manager Taimark Walkine and he'll tell you there was an incident, which he can't remember clearly, about a month ago. Ask police spokesman Delrish Moss and he'll look up the reports on the department's computer. An $8000 Chrysler LeBaron was stolen July 7, a purse was snatched a few days later, and a moped was taken just days ago. "That's not high," Moss says. "It's rather good." Adds Walkine: "We have made this place very safe."

Speaking of restaurants, the venerable S&S diner, where the likes of movie director Jonathan Demme and actor Billy Crystal have sat codo a codo with dump-truck drivers and carpenters, is under new management. Chef and general manager Bertrand Labarriere, from Normandy, France, will run the place. He'll add a few yuppie dishes (paella, penne, and steak au poivre) but promises the joint won't change much.

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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse