By Derek Joy
Amid widespread media attention on the alleged misconduct by Miami Gardens Police, the Florida State Conference of NAACP chapters held a media teleconference to address its request of the U. S. Justice Department to promptly investigate the alleged misconduct.
The allegations came to light when the owner of the 207 Quick Stop Convenience Store in Miami Gardens released videotapes showing Miami Gardens Police Officers in what appeared to be repeated acts of unwarranted contact and misuse of police authority.
The NAACP got involved after the Miami Herald published a series of articles detailing complaints of residents and alleged misconduct of the Miami Gardens Police.
“We called upon the Justice Department to investigate because it’s very critical we have an impartial entity go in,” said Adora obi Nweze, president of the Florida State NAACP.
Among the issues in question is Earl Sampson, a part time 207 Quick Stop employee, who has been arrested 62 times. He has been charged with loitering and trespassing, in addition to one arrest for possession of a small amount of marijuana.
However, the store owner could not produce a W2 Form (federal income and tax documentation). He later said he helped the unemployed Sampson by giving him part time work.
Miami Gardens Police have responded to 1,400 calls for service at that location over the past four years. A 19-year-old was shot and killed last September in the store’s parking lot.
“This kind of pervasive and invasive conduct by police gravely undermines the rights of citizens. Arresting one person 62 times is over the top. The videotape (of police) is disturbing,” said David Honig, president of the Miami Dade Chapter NAACP and general counsel.
“Most times you have to depend on witnesses, “he said, she said. The videotape clearly shows continuing pervasive and invasive violations of civil rights. We’re exercising our First Amendment Right to demand redress of the situation.”
Questions arose regarding the possibility that the media attention and requests for an investigation by the Justice Department is a result of Miami Gardens being a predominantly Black American municipality governed by Black American elected officials.
Black Americans form 76 percent of the Miami Gardens population and only 30 percent of the police department. The Task Force accused of the transgressions reportedly has an equal number of Black Americans, Hispanics and Whites.
One officer has already resigned. Others may follow.
“We’ve heard there are instances of violations that extend beyond the location of this store. I’m not aware of them,” said Honig. “There are public complaints and lawsuits filed by those at this location.
“This is not a question of Black and White. It is a question of right and wrong. What we want is for people to feel safe and be safe. This may involve racial profiling. We have to see what the view of the Justice Department, after it completes its investigation. This is really more about the invasion of people’s privacy and dignity.”
Interestingly, the Miami Dade State Attorney and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement have not acted on requests made by Miami Gardens officials.
Neither has the Justice Department, which, according to Honig, acts only when a complaint has been lodged or a request made.
The NAACP has requested a meeting with the Justice Department, including the U. S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, and residents of the community.
“Our overall plan is to bring about some peaceable solution to the tensions, investigate and prosecute the guilty and institute some policies to prevent this from happening again,” said Honig.
Obi Nweze added: “We certainly will keep pushing.”