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Three Miami Police Chiefs Condemn Trump's Endorsement of Police Brutality

Three Miami Police Chiefs Condemn Trump's Endorsement of Police Brutality
Miami-Dade County Police

This past Friday, Donald Trump stood in front of a crowd of cops and told them to bang their suspects' heads against their cruisers, in a clear endorsement of police brutality. So far, only two Miami-area police chiefs have stepped up and said publicly that Trump's comments were wrong, and only one did so voluntarily.

Today, Miami-Dade County Police Director Juan Perez and Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates condemned the president's rhetoric, echoing a sentiment already endorsed by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which released a blog post repudiating Trump's comments.

Miami Gardens Police Chief Delma Noel-Pratt first voluntarily rebuked Trump on Friday.

"As a department, we do not and will not condone police brutality," Noel-Pratt said forcefully. "All City of Miami Gardens POlice Department officers are trained to treat all individuals with dignity and respect. As the leader of this professional organization, I will continue to ensure that every day our officers utilize fiar and impartial policing within the community which we serve."

MDPD Director Juan Perez followed suit Monday, but only when prompted by the press:

“As director, I echo the statements provided by the International Association of Chiefs of Police as well as the Major Cities Chiefs Association and assure our community that the men and women of the Miami-Dade Police Department strive to always practice our core values of integrity, respect, service, and fairness,” Perez says. “We will treat all persons in a dignified and courteous manner, taking pride in providing a professional level of service and fairness to all.”

MBPD's Oates is similarly critical, though equally circumspect.

"Every police chief organization has repudiated his statement and said it was entirely inappropriate," Oates tells New Times via phone. "The law is clear: Officers should use the minimum force necessary to accomplish their job; that’s what our training and standards are. The national organizations have spoken out and done the right thing."

(It should be noted that both departments have long, unresolved issues with police brutality in their own right, but the chiefs' statements today are still better than nothing.)

City of Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes did not respond to a message from New Times today. Of the 35 police departments operating within Miami-Dade County, none voluntarily knocked down Trump's comments over the weekend (unlike big-city departments such as LAPD and NYPD and even the small-town Gainesville Police).

The controversy began Friday when Trump spoke in front of a crowd of cops at Suffolk County Community College on Long Island, New York. Trump was talking about crimes committed by the gang MS-13 and told officers to rough gang members up a bit after they arrest them. This is not legal.

“When you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put the hand over?” Trump said. Officers are supposed to place suspects inside police cruisers without injuring them because they haven't been proven guilty in court yet. “Like, don’t hit their head, and they just killed somebody — don’t hit their head. I said, 'You can take the hand away,' OK?”

Trump then mentioned “these thugs being thrown into the back of a paddy wagon,” seemingly endorsing the illegal police practice known as a "rough ride" or "nickel ride," in which cops throw cuffed suspects into the back of police vehicles and drive erratically so the suspects crash into the walls. This is how Baltimore's Freddie Gray was killed.

After those comments, the cops onstage behind Trump applauded. And the next day, the head of the National Fraternal Order of Police, released a statement praising Trump.

"There isn't another politician out there today who empathizes more with our members than the President does — and nobody appreciates him more than the 332,000 members of the Fraternal Order of Police!" FOP National President Chuck Canterbury wrote.

Canterbury included a disclaimer that nobody should be "pre-judged" before being found guilty in court, but he undercut his own argument by heaping praise on the president and telling everyone to chill out, because Trump was clearly kidding:

"That being said, the President's off-the-cuff comments on policing are sometimes taken all too literally by the media and professional police critics," he wrote.

Surprisingly, Miami's FOP chapter, led by vocal Trump supporter Lt. Javier Ortiz, has not yet weighed in publicly on the president's comments. Police departments across the nation, including in Gainesville, began speaking up over the weekend and reminding people that what Trump recommended is illegal.

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Thankfully, at least some local chiefs of police have the wherewithal to speak out against Trump's speech. It's just unfortunate we had to ask before anyone said anything.

This story has been updated to include a statement from Miami Gardens Police.

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