November 28, 2021

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Miami city commission begins hearing on fate of suspended police chief Acevedo

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Acevedo, who attended the hearing, was suspended “effective immediately” Monday until the commission makes an affirmative judgment to terminate him, which is the expected outcome of the proceedings. If the commission decides the allegations are not “well grounded,” Acevedo will be reinstated, according to a memo addressed to Acevedo by Noriega.

Noriega’s statement this week said Acevedo had “lost the confidence and trust of the rank-and-file” as well as the executive staff after three incidents where Acevedo appeared to support a Covid-19 vaccination mandate for officers, received a vote of no confidence by the Fraternal Order of Police and witnessed his deputy chief “verbally assault his executive staff after a commission meeting and did not intervene” on October 1.

Acevedo’s suspension comes on the heels of city commissioners calling for his ouster during two contentious, hourslong meetings on September 27 and October 1 to discuss his decisions and behavior that were deemed questionable.

The chief wrote a bombshell memo to Mayor Francis Suarez and Noriega on September 24 in which he accused three city commissioners of interfering with reform efforts and a confidential internal investigation.

Miami's rock star police chief suspended, likely to be fired after falling out with city leaders, cops

“Relationships between employers and employees come down to fit and leadership style and unfortunately, Chief Acevedo is not the right fit for this organization,” Noriega said in his statement. “It is now time to move forward with the search for new leadership at MPD.”

John Byrne, an attorney for the chief, said in the hearing that Acevedo was suspended as a result of that memo, adding, “he had the courage to do what many of us don’t have the courage to do, which is to speak truth to power.”

Byrne said the proceedings were “already preordained,” arguing that “this is not a fair setting.” The chief’s defense team won’t be calling any witnesses because they were denied a request for a continuance until Monday to prepare for the hearing, Byrne said.

Noriega’s attorney, meanwhile, did call witnesses, including city Human Resources Director Angela Roberts and Interim Police Chief Manny Morales.

“Each of these witnesses will testify as to their personal knowledge regarding the eight reasons for the chief’s suspension, including testimony from the city manager who ultimately lost confidence in the chief’s ability to effectively lead the Miami Police Department,” Stephanie Marchman, Noriega’s attorney, said.

Morales was appointed as interim chief of the Miami Police Department as the city engages in the search for a permanent replacement, Noriega has said.

Acevedo propelled himself to the national stage as a police leader who has been highly vocal in discussions about police reform and public safety, calling for national standards on the use of force by police and marching with protesters after George Floyd was killed by officers in Minneapolis.

In an internal email obtained by CNN, Acevedo told officers on Monday to “be kind to each other” and advised that they engage in “Relational Policing,” a term that stresses the importance of law enforcement’s relationship with community members.

“I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your service and for your warmth and spirit,” Acevedo wrote in the email. “I urge you all to keep driving forward and to give the people of Miami the best service possible.”

Noriega had asked Acevedo to submit a plan to change issues within the police department.

Acevedo laid out a 90-day action plan October 4 to improve the department in several areas, including boosting officer morale, mending his relationship with elected officials and a policing and management plan.

But Noriega said the plan was “materially deficient” in addressing officer morale and community relations and offered “no significant plan to solve either problem.”

During his testimony, Morales referenced the results of a survey by the department’s Fraternal Order of Police that revealed 79% of Miami’s police force have lost confidence in Acevedo as chief and pointed to a “systematic demoralization of the police department as a result of his leadership style or his strategic tactics on personnel.”

During cross-examination from Byrne, Morales also said he believed the chief’s support for vaccine mandates is “a reason that he should be fired,” adding that there shouldn’t be such mandate.

CNN has previously reached out to Acevedo but has not heard back.

Police chiefs are leaving departments at a higher rate than previous years

The suspension and likely termination is a dramatic fall for Acevedo, who was the first Latino to lead the police department in Houston, and was dubbed by Miami’s mayor as the “Tom Brady or the Michael Jordan of police chiefs,” when he was hired.

Acevedo began his law enforcement career with the California Highway Patrol in 1986 as a field patrol officer in Los Angeles and was named chief of the California Highway Patrol in 2005, according to his biography on MPD’s website. He then served as the chief of police in Austin, Texas, for more than nine years.
In 2016, he took the reins as police chief in Houston, where he served for more than four years before resigning in March.

CNN’s Ryan Young, Amir Vera and Rebekah Riess contributed to this report.

2021-10-14 19:27:05

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