Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Today's history lesson

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"
-George Santayana, American philosopher

The Miami Herald has another story in today's paper on the growing discord between Miami mayor Tomas Regalado and Miami police chief Miguel Exposito.
The latest in a series of fatal police shootings proved a tipping point for Miami City Hall on Monday, where black community leaders and a city commissioner joined the mayor in criticizing embattled Police Chief Miguel Exposito.

Exposito, meanwhile, held a rare get-together with reporters to answer questions about the New Year's Day shooting in Overtown. But he refused to discuss a private meeting with Mayor Tomas Regalado, days after firing off two letters in which he accused Regalado of being in bed with illegal gambling interests.

The shooting death -- the sixth of a black male by Miami police since last summer -- prompted an angry neighborhood rally Saturday night and increased pressure against Exposito, whose first year in office was marked by public missteps.

But the cascading dissatisfaction with Exposito did not lead to his ouster, as some had speculated could happen Monday, the first day on the job for new City Manager Tony Crapp Jr.

Unlike most department heads, the city charter says the police chief can only be fired for cause -- and only by the manager. Crapp, who was sworn in Monday, said he needs time to meet with and evaluate Exposito before making any decisions.
So while Exposito may be going down, he's not going down without a fight. From the Herald:
Last week, Exposito wrote letters blasting [Regalado] for what he called ``interference'' in police investigations of coin-operated gambling machines in cafeterias and bodegas. The chief demanded a meeting with Regalado, who denied he had meddled in the probes. Regalado did sponsor changes to city laws regulating the machines, but said the changes were for the better.
It's not the first time Regalado has interfered with the police.

Dealing with the police in 2000 as a Miami city commissioner during the Eliam Gonzalez crisis, he exhibited behavior unbecoming of someone in a position of authority. At other times his behavior can best be described as unstable and disruptive.

Here's a little history lesson for those of you whose memories may be short.
Friday, January 14, 2000
by TYLER BRIDGES, tbridges@herald.com

Heightened passions over little Elian Gonzalez shifted Thursday to Miami City Hall, where the commission chamber was packed for a showdown between Commissioner Tomas Regalado and the Miami Police Department over Regalado 's charge that officers used brutality in arresting protesters last week.

The atmosphere grew tense, particularly after Regalado demanded an answer from Miami Police Chief William O'Brien about who was responsible for the late-night police order to clear several hundred people from Flagler Street and Southwest 57th Avenue on Jan. 6. The demonstration was protesting an Immigration and Naturalization Service ruling that would send Elian back to Cuba.

``I gave the order to clear that intersection,'' O'Brien replied forcefully, his top brass standing behind him. The crowd erupted in cheers and jeers, and several minutes later, two men stood up and yelled in Spanish that O'Brien was a liar. Police officers escorted them out of the chamber as four photographers and six TV camera operators captured the action.

But in the end tensions cooled, and the commission unanimously approved a watered-down measure proposed by Regalado. It calls for the creation of a special seven-member committee to study ways to prevent a recurrence of the late-night street clash, at which police pushed people back from the intersection, fired tear gas and arrested 48 protesters.

The vote came after Regalado assured everyone that he was not attempting to put the police department on trial. ``It's about what transpired last week,'' Regalado said.

The controversy began earlier this week when Regalado released a letter attacking the police for ``excesses'' and ``abuses.''

Tony Rodriguez, president of the police union, responded with a letter saying Regalado had ``unjustly'' attacked the department. Rodriguez called on off-duty police officers to attend Thursday's meeting.

At City Hall on Thursday morning, someone anonymously distributed a 1994 letter from the U.S. Navy commander of the Guantanamo military base that criticized Regalado.

In the letter, Commander J.F. Boland Jr. told Regalado that he was banned from the base for six months for having encouraged Cuban rafters held there to ``initiate extreme protests including acts of violence and aggression against military personnel.'' Regalado , not yet a Miami commissioner, had visited the base in his capacity as a Radio Mambi reporter.

Regalado blamed Mayor Joe Carollo, his bitter rival, for making public the letter. ``It's CBI on the move,'' he said, referring to a phrase he coined last year, the ``Carollo Bureau of Investigation.''

Regalado also said a second military letter, written a short time later, exonerated his actions at the base.

An aide to Carollo, Bobby Navarro, said Carollo was ill and had nothing to do with the letter's distribution.

By the time the commission took up Regalado 's measure, police officers filled nearly half of the commission chamber's 125 seats, and police critics occupied most of the remaining seats.

Regalado started off as if he were spoiling for a fight with the police department. His strident words prompted O'Brien to respond that he was responsible for the late-night police order.

But a few minutes later, Commissioner Arthur Teele Jr. intervened, sensing that his close commission ally was heading toward a clash with the police.

`` Tomas , I believe you're about to get set up,'' Teele said.

Indeed, O'Brien was ready to air a videotape that he said would show Regalado on Jan. 6 grabbing a police officer in an attempt to prevent an arrest.

But after Teele spoke, O'Brien only briefly expressed his belief that Regalado had interfered with the arrests and did not show the videotape.

Rodriguez, the police union president, also chose not to attack Regalado when he was given the chance to speak, instead defending his men for showing ``a tremendous amount of restraint.''

And here's a Jan. 17, 2000 Miami Herald editorial that doesn't mince words calling Regalado's behavior "reckless" and "thuggish":

If there is one lesson that this community might embrace today while honoring the memory of Martin Luther King Jr., it is to learn to disagree with others while respecting their viewpoints. That is a fundamental pillar of a civil society - and something that too many of Miami-Dade's leaders and some of our colleagues in the media discard in times of high emotion.

Especially disappointing last week were the words of Hialeah Mayor Raul Martinez and the inexcusable actions of Miami City Commissioner Tomas Regalado. As elected representatives, and thereby opinion leaders, Mayor Martinez and Commissioner Regalado must be held to high standards of public performance.

But instead of calming the already-roiling emotional waters that continue washing over this community because of the crisis involving Elian Gonzalez's case, both men recklessly stirred them further.

Mr. Martinez's dereliction came last Wednesday during one of his appearances on a popular Spanish-language radio program where he slandered Attorney General Janet Reno beyond the bounds of fair criticism and issued what some overwrought listeners could interpret as a veiled threat to her future safety. The Hialeah mayor said that the attorney general's decision to uphold the Immigration and Naturalization Service's order to return Elian to his Cuban father was rooted in what he alleged were her anti-immigrant, anti-Cuban and anti-Caribbean-black views. He implied that she had a drinking problem, which he claimed had been hidden from the FBI when she was investigated prior to winning appointment to the post seven years ago.

Although it is within Mr. Martinez's right to question Attorney General Reno's decision, it is outrageous that he would resort to scurrilous personal attacks - not a single one of the charges backed by a shred of evidence. He was also out of bounds to comment during the program that, when Ms. Reno's tenure in Washington, D.C., ends a year from now, she won't be welcome in her native Miami-Dade. Although it was surely intended as nothing more than ironic observation, Mr. Martinez should know others may take his words as an invitation to violence.

Commissioner Regalado's problems, meanwhile were as much physical as oral. His attacks on the Miami police department's handling of the street demonstrations 10 days ago are severely undermined by news videotape showing that he was not only a provocateur - refusing to help police restore order - but that he is lucky not to have wound up in jail for assaulting a policeman.

Police efforts to work out a compromise wherein the protests could go on without blocking traffic were nullified by Mr. Regalado - a dereliction of his own duty. He then compounded his thuggish behavior by taking to the City Commission dais and trying to push his colleagues into organizing a witch hunt against some officers. They wisely refused.

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