(Trends Wide) — Six months after Art Acevedo resigned as Houston Police Chief to the top job in the Miami Police Department (MPD), his future at the agency is on the line after the city commissioners called for his removal during two controversial meetings.
The commission held multi-hour meetings on September 27 and October 1 to discuss Acevedo’s decisions and behavior, which they say are questionable, just days after the chief wrote an explosive memorandum to the mayor of Acevedo. Miami, Francis Suarez, and the city manager, Arthur Noriega, on September 24.
In the memo, Acevedo accused city commissioners Joe Carollo, Alex Diaz de la Portilla and Manolo Reyes of interfering in reform efforts and a confidential internal investigation.
Commissioners Carollo, de la Portilla and Reyes could not be reached for comment when contacted by Trends Wide. Mayor Suárez and Administrator Noriega also could not be reached for comment.
The second meeting concluded with the unanimous vote of the commissioners to form a panel that will investigate Acevedo’s hiring and the accusations against the commissioners exposed in their memorandum.
Acevedo’s controversial hiring
Acevedo, the first Latino to head the Houston police department, was dubbed the “Tom Brady or Michael Jordan of police chiefs” by the Miami mayor when he was hired.
He became a police leader who has been actively involved in debates on police reform and public safety, calling for national regulations on the use of force by the police and marching with protesters following the death of George Floyd to hands of agents in Minneapolis.
In his memorandum last month, Acevedo wrote: “If I or the MPD gave in to the improper actions described here, as a Cuban immigrant, I and my family could very well have stayed in communist Cuba, because Miami and the MPD would be no better than the repressive regime and the police state that we left behind. “
During meetings earlier this month, commissioners dissected Acevedo’s background, focusing on his time in Houston, and criticized the way Acevedo was hired, saying he did not follow regular protocol.
An NBC 6 investigation found that Acevedo did not officially apply for the chief position; however, the mayor recommended Acevedo for the position while he was in Houston and the city manager hired him. You were selected from over 50 applicants and eight finalists, including five internal candidates who went through a selection process.
According to NBC 6, Suarez previously defended the hiring of the chief, saying that “it was a wonderful job of recruiting on the part of our manager to essentially get what the United States police chief is here in Miami.”
Acevedo faces backlash for demoting two officers and firing another
Since then, several controversial Acevedo measures have strained his relationship with the city in the past six months, said Alexis Piquero, director of the Department of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Miami.
Acevedo faced backlash from his own police force when he fired two high-ranking officers and demoted a high-ranking black Miami police officer earlier this year, then appeared to support a COVID vaccination mandate. -19 for the cops. But the turning point, according to Piquero, was when Acevedo told officers during the roll call in August that “the Cuban mafia runs the Miami Police Department.”
Acevedo later apologized, saying his comment was intended to “highlight the importance of diversity within our own ranks and lighten our discussion,” but added that he has since learned that it was “highly offensive to the exiled Cuban community, of the one I’m a proud member of. “
When contacted by Trends Wide to comment on the meetings and the allegations, Acevedo said that “the city has ordered him not to discuss these matters.”
The city manager asks for a plan for the police department
Noriega asked Acevedo to come up with a plan to change the problems within the police department, and Acevedo laid out a 90-day action plan on October 4 to improve the department in several areas, including increasing officer morale, repairing its relationship with elected officials, and a monitoring and management plan.
“Although there have been bumps along the way, I hit the reset button and I look forward to working diligently to fulfill the mission that I have been entrusted with building on the successes of my predecessors,” Acevedo wrote in the plan.
According to the statutes of the city of Miami, the commission is a legislative body that does not have the power to direct the police department and cannot hire or fire a police chief. But the police chief reports directly to the city manager, who is hired by the commission and has the ability to terminate the police chief’s contract.
“You can put enough pressure on the city manager to do something with the police chief, either to discipline or punish him, or to have the two separate,” said Richard Rivera, a former city police policy analyst who was member of a police oversight panel.
Commissioners can also exercise “a lot of control and authority” because they can modify the city budget at any time, which could derail the chief’s plans for a specific unit or the hiring of a number of agents, Rivera said.
“It is up to a police executive to work together with the commissioners,” he added.
Although Acevedo’s future in the department is uncertain, he faces one of three options in the coming weeks: Acevedo can commit to repairing his relationship with the commissioners; You can decide that the relationship is untenable and choose to resign; Or the city may decide to fire him, according to City Commissioner Ken Russell, who said he supported Acevedo’s hiring but is now on the “side of the process” to make city leadership stable again.
“My hope is that the chief and the city manager will resolve this, but above all quickly, because instability within a police department is not good for a city of our size,” Russell told Trends Wide.
What could happen next
At the moment, the five commissioners have not passed any conviction or judgment on the chief, Russell said. Three commissioners were accused of wrongdoing, and those commissioners in turn accused the chief of “inappropriate actions,” he added.
“The meetings shouldn’t have happened in the first place,” Russell said. “An open discussion about what a carefully investigated allegation should be can only expose the city.”
“What happens when you don’t have leadership that is supported by the leadership and the elected body is that your ability to manage a police force is undermined,” Russell said. “When you have a boss whose main goal is reform, transparency and accountability, you need him to have the backing of those he works with. So it is very important that we are a united body.”
Most and least likely
The most plausible scenario, according to Piquero, is that the discussions continue for the next few weeks and that Acevedo remains in office. Acevedo is unlikely to resign, he said, as his memorandum underscores his “sworn obligation … to defend the rule of law” and work for the “well-being of the men and women of the MPD,” as well as the city.
He is also unlikely to be fired because of his short tenure as boss, which typically lasts three to six years, and because he was asked to write a plan.
“Noriega asked him to write a plan. He is not asked for that and he is fired,” said Piquero, adding that “it would look bad for everyone.”