MIAMI -- Miami officials have decided to fire the city’s new police chief six months into his stormy tenure, after he was lambasted by the city commissioners he accused of meddling in the police department and internal affairs investigations.
Miami City Manager Art Noriega said in a statement Monday that he suspended Chief Art Acevedo with the intent to terminate his employment.
“The relationship between the Chief and the organization has become untenable and needed to be resolved promptly,” Noriega said. “Chief Acevedo is not the right fit for this organization.”
Art Acevedo was recruited by Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, who earlier this year hailed him as “America’s best chief.” He was seen as a progressive law enforcer who headed the police department in Houston, and shares ancestry with hundreds of thousands Cubans in Miami as a Havana-born refugee.
But Acevedo began making waves almost immediately after he was sworn in in April by taking over internal affairs and making significant changes to his command staff. He demoted four majors and fired two high-level police officials — a married couple — because they weren’t truthful about a crash involving a city-issued SUV.
At two raucous meetings over the past month, commissioners attacked Acevedo and his leadership, appointing themselves to an investigative committee with subpoena power to examine his appointment.
At one of those meetings, videos were played of Acevedo impersonating Elvis Presley dancing the “Jailhouse Rock” in the iconic white jumpsuit and entering a dance floor of a fundraiser, slapping a woman’s rear with a piece of paper. At another, city commissioner Joe Carollo asked that Acevedo arrest him if he had proof that he and other politicians were interfering with internal affairs investigations.
Miami City Commissioner Manolo Reyes told WSVN-TV that “the only thing we asked for him was to be a chief. Not to be a politician. Not to be a critic for any elected official, the judges and the state attorney. Just to do his job as a chief.”
In an eight-page memo sent by Acevedo to the city manager and mayor before those meetings, Acevedo stated that Carollo and the other commissioners were interfering with internal affairs investigations, and improperly ordering police resources to be deployed against certain establishments “based on nothing more than the whims of commissioners.” He also accused the commissioners of hampering his reform mandate by eliminating positions.
Carollo and the other two Cuban American commissioners said they were deeply offended when reports emerged last month that Acevedo talked to officers about a “Cuban mafia” that runs the city. Acevedo later apologized, saying he didn’t know that was a term former Cuban leader Fidel Castro used to refer to exiles.
“He must be the only individual of Cuban background in the world who doesn’t know that,” Carollo said. “You are not in the middle of the Amazon.”
Among other things, the commissioners alleged that Acevedo has been hypocritical for firing officers for some of the things he is accused of doing.
Carollo, the most vocal politician opposing Acevedo’s leadership, scrutinized an older photo where the police chief was seen using a “white power” hand gesture similar to the OK hand sign, saying a Miami officer was relieved of duty by Acevedo after being accused of using the same gesture.
Carollo and another commissioner are also scrutinizing damage seen on Acevedo’s SUV, which they claim was not properly reported. They say that was similar to the incident that led to Acevedo’s firing of the husband and wife police officers.
Assistant Police Chief Manny Morales will take over as interim chief while the city searches for a permanent replacement.
The Associated Press was unable to reach Acevedo for a comment about his firing Monday night.