'We're sick of all the f***ing fags in the neighborhood,' cops allegedly told gay man
Miami Beach has long had a reputation for being a refuge for gay Americans, but if the ACLU's allegations against the city prove true, people in the LGBT community may want to think twice about retiring to the vibrant little community just off the coast of southern Florida.
The ACLU's Florida chapter says it plans to sue the Miami Beach Police Department after a gay visitor to the city was beaten and arrested by police when he tried to call 911 to report the police beating of another gay man.
According to the NBC affiliate in Miami, Harold Strickland says he was harassed, verbally assaulted and wrongfully arrested in March, 2009, when he called 911 after witnessing two police officers kicking a handcuffed gay man in Miami Beach's Flamingo Park.
Strickland says the officers, identified as Frankly Forte and Elliot Hazzi, were kicking the suspect "like his head was a football." When the officers saw Strickland making a call on a nearby pay phone, Strickland says one officer came up to him and said, "We know what you're doing here. We're sick of all the fucking fags in the neighborhood."
The officers arrested Strickland and continued to barrage him with homophobic epithets, NBC Miami reports.
"Often, police target gay men walking near Flamingo Park for nothing more than looking ‘too gay’,” Robert Rosenwald, director of the Florida ACLU's LGBT Advocacy Project, said in a statement. “When police officers become the problem rather than the solution, the City needs to take action."
In a letter (PDF) sent to Miami Beach Mayor Matti Harrera Bower on Wednesday, the ACLU said Miami Beach police "also have an alarming history of arresting individuals, particularly African-American men and women, who witness police misconduct."
The ACLU says it has received reports of Miami Beach officers threatening to arrest witnesses of police misconduct and even tearing out cellphone SIM cards belonging to people who photographed police arrests.
"All people have a clear constitutional right and a civic duty to report police misconduct," said Ray Taseff, an attorney working with the ACLU. "When police start arresting people for reporting police misconduct, the public’s faith in law enforcement suffers.”
According to Carlos Santoscoy at OnTopMag, the officers who arrested Strickland claimed in their police report that Strickland had been "prowling" Flamingo Park and approached their squad car before fleeing when he realized there was an officer inside.
But Santoscoy reports that Strickland's recorded 911 call "conflicts" with the arresting officers' claims, as the officers can be heard on the 911 call confronting Strickland after he had reported what he had allegedly seen.
The ACLU is calling on Mayor Bower to discipline the two officers involved.