Last Thursday, some pissed-off Miami police officers showed up at Miami City Hall demanding commissioners restore their pay and benefits that have been cut over the years in an effort to help balance the city's books.
The cops filled the commission chambers, clogged the aisles, and at times, ignored the rules of decorum by shouting their demands at commissioners.
The Miami Herald's Nadege Green tweeted...
What do you do when the pd invade city hall and bring meeting to a halt? Do you call the police? #Miami @miamiherald pic.twitter.com/IEVI0VTnpF
— Nadege C. Green (@NadegeGreen) February 27, 2014
The only commissioner left in the chambers is @KeonHardemon. Everyone else is hiding? Police take over #Miami city hall.
— Nadege C. Green (@NadegeGreen) February 27, 2014
Local 10's veteran political reporter Michael Putney covered the demonstration.
Yesterday, Putney ended his Sunday public affairs show with some thoughts on the cops' behavior last Thursday.
The Miami cops were not just disrespectful and rude, they violated the rules of conduct that apply to anyone who appears before the commission. But all the sergeants-at-arms did was stand by and watch. Of course the sergeants-at-arms are Miami police officers, so what do you expect?
After about 10 minutes of haranguing commissioners the cops left. But then they came back and started banging on the glass windows on the second floor above the commission chamber and yelling demands. Again no one stepped forward to stop them. This is unacceptable.
Commission Chairman Willy Gort should have ordered the officers to pipe down or leave the chamber. But he didn't.
Police Chief Manuel Orosa and other top brass were at city hall. They didn't do anything either.
If a group of angry citizens had behaved this way, they would have been arrested. By allowing the cops to do it, the City of Miami is accepting and setting a double standard. It is a terrible precedent.
Today, the Herald's Charles Rabin and Nadege Green are reporting that Chief Orosa responded Friday to the city hall mob scene with a strongly-worded, department-wide email. (Full text below.)
A day after dozens of Miami police union members stormed City Hall and interrupted a commission meeting, Police Chief Manuel Orosa laid down the law: Do it again and you’ll be prosecuted.Today, according to Rabin and Green, union president Ortiz had this to say about Orosa's email:
What started [last Thursday] as a tame protest by upset police officers became increasingly unruly. They shouted “Regalado gotta go!” referring to Mayor Tomás Regalado, and “Restore pay!”
Stunned observers took photos on their cellphones. Others joked about calling police to quell the unrest. As officers chanted “Second floor, second floor,” they filed out of the chamber and up the steps toward the mayor’s and city manager’s offices.
“Please keep in mind that the disruption of a governmental official meeting is a prosecutable crime. . . . Should this behavior repeat itself, members should expect punitive legal action, up to and including prosecution. I would hope that in the future, none of you allow yourselves to follow misguided individuals who act without first considering the consequences of their action," Orosa said [in his email].
The chief was taking a clear shot at Javier Ortiz, the outspoken president of the Fraternal Order of Police, the police union, who organized last week’s rally in the park.
“Chief Orosa’s letter was him trying to cover up his lack of leadership at last week’s demonstration. I do not condone unprofessionalism or illegal acts. However, we will exercise our First Amendment rights, which if he intends to squash, will result in some bigger challenges for him.Looks like sh*t just got real, y'all!
“A threatening letter will not intimidate us from having our voices heard,” Ortiz said. “This is just the first demonstration this year and you should anticipate many more in the very near future.”
Text of Chief Orosa's email.
At yesterday's City Commission meeting, a group of Miami Fraternal Order of Police members marched to City Hall in order to petition the City Commission to restore their wages and benefits. I fully support any effort to restore lost wages for the difficult and honorable work that you perform every day. A few years ago (prior to becoming Chief), I too lost wages of 12% and 9% in consecutive years of cuts. However, your message must be a peaceful exercise of your First Amendment rights.
Unfortunately, yesterday's demonstration turned into a mob which disrupted a City Commission meeting and placed several administrative employees in fear for their safety. Think about that for a moment. Members of the Miami Police Department, whose mission it is to protect and preserve the public order, disrupted an official City function and placed fellow City employees in fear. [Emphasis mine.] Yesterday's behavior is an embarrassment to both the Miami Police Department and the Fraternal Order of Police. The unruly expression of your frustrations will only serve to alienate the people you need to support your cause.
Please keep in mind that the disruption of a governmental official meeting is a prosecutable crime under Chapters 877.03 and 870.02 of the Florida Statutes. Should this behavior repeat itself, members should expect punitive legal action, up to and including prosecution. I would hope that in the future, none of you allow yourselves to follow misguided individuals who act without first considering the consequences of their actions.
Chief of Police