UPDATED – Tuesday, November 26, 2013, 5:25 p.m.
A member of Miami Gardens’ police department alleges that city and police department leaders instructed officers to profile based on race, according to CBS Miami. The unnamed officer also said that cops are pressured to meet quotas for stopping people.
The tenured officer, who did not wish to be identified, spoke on what is expected to be the eve of a lawsuit being filed against the City of Miami Gardens, its mayor, the police chief and dozens of other current and former city employees.
“There was a time when the major of patrol came into our roll call and specifically stated to narrow your focus to black males between the ages of 15 to 30,” the officer recalled in an exclusive interview with CBS4′s Lauren Pastrana.
UPDATED – Sunday, November 24, 2013, 12:25 p.m.
Miami Gardens man Earl Sampson (pictured) might have one of the most-extensive rap sheets in the state of Florida, after getting stopped and questioned a whopping 258 times over a four-year period. One curious portion of his record stands out: he has been arrested 62 times for trespassing at a store he actually works in.
As noted by the Miami Herald, just about every citation that Sampson received for trespassing has occurred from him attempting to enter the 207 Quickstop convenience store, his place of employment. The arrests have baffled store owner Alex Saleh, who has taken matters in to his own hands.
Saleh, 36, installed 15 cameras in and around his store, after witnessing the Miami Gardens police force stop and frisk mostly Black and poor citizens attempting to enter the store. According to the report, some patrons received as many as three citations a day for minor violations, including Sampson.
Since June of 2012, Saleh has been filming activity outside his store, which has never been robbed, and his cameras caught the cops in action several times during their shakedowns. Saleh believes that there is a lack of safety because police are abusing their authority and harassing individuals for the sake of it.
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Although Miami Garden Police Chief Matthew Boyd issued a brief statement, saying his force is committed to protecting citizens and business, a local civil rights leader thinks otherwise.
“Where is the police chief in all this? In a police department in a city this size, this kind of behavior could not escape his attention,” said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union Florida.
Boyd added, “Doesn’t the City Commission know that they are exposing the city to either massive liability for civil rights violations? Either that, or they are going to wake up one day and find the U.S. Department of Justice has taken over its police department.’’
Saleh, using evidence from his store, is crafting a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city, alleging that leaders have secretly instructed cops to perform racial profiling and the illegal stop and frisk procedures.
Saleh also said the police often use racial slurs and other insults toward his customers, and have even tried to bully him as well.
“Police line them up and tell them to put their hands against the wall. I started asking myself, Is this normal? I just kept thinking police can’t do this,’’ Saleh said.
Saleh, a native of Venezuela who is of Palestinian descent, said that he thinks of his customers as family and has become a fixture in the neighborhood. Despite its infamy, crime in Miami Gardens is reportedly down, although some violence still occurs.
Sampson, who has been stopped at least once per week over four years, thinks the excessive stops by police are adding to the rise in other serious crimes.
“We have people shooting, killing, robberies. This is really ridiculous that they spend so much time arresting people for trespassing,” Sampson said.
The Miami Gardens police have yet to publicly respond to Saleh’s allegations and lawsuit.
This story has been updated to reflect that fact that Sampson has been stopped and questioned 258 times, not arrested 258 times.