March 2010 Cover
Claiming that two police officers wrongfully arrested a gay man who
witnessed them beating a suspect, the American Civil Liberties Union of
Florida announced its plan to sue both the offending officers and the
Miami Beach Police Department.
Harold Strickland, a former resident of Miami Beach who now lives
in Los Angeles, said he was walking near Flamingo Park in March 2009
when he saw two men in uniform kicking and punching a man in handcuffs
"like a football."
When officers Frankly Forte and Elliot Hazzi approached
Strickland, he was already on the phone describing the violence to the
911 dispatcher. After being pushed to the ground and peppered with
anti-gay slurs, Strickland was jailed on a loitering-or-prowling
charge. The charges against both Strickland and the other man were
Robert Rosenwald, director of the ACLU of Florida's LGBT Advocacy
Project, said his office has received many reports of gay men being
harassed and targeted in that area in recent years.
"The police have been chasing gay people out of the Flamingo Park
area, arresting them, trumping up charges and beating them up, so we've
been looking for a case to challenge it for a long time," Rosenwald
told Guide magazine. "This is a systemic problem of policy that the
department needs to deal with."
In response to the ACLU challenge, the Miami Beach Police
Department reassigned the officers to desk duty pending the result of
an internal investigation. Chief of Police Carlos Noriega and City
Manager Jorge Gonzalez also attended a meeting with the city's gay
Business Enhancement Committee a week after the lawsuit was announced.
Herb Sosa, a member of that committee, indicated that the
department was responding to their concerns. They have promised to more
accurately report hate crimes in the city and appointed two openly gay
officers to posts where they will address gay issues.
"I have nothing but praise for them, and I think a lot of
positive came out of the meeting," Sosa said.
While sharing Sosa's optimism, Rosenwald further emphasized it
was not an isolated incident. Strickland's coming forward represents a
rare, courageous case.
"They've said this is something that doesn't extend to the
department as a whole, but that's simply not true," Rosenwald said. "We
think the negative publicity on this case has made them more serious
and willing to do the right thing, so I'll take them at their word and
we'll have to wait and see."
|Author Profile: Joseph Erbentraut
Joseph Erbentraut is a Wisconsin-born freelance writer and editor
currently living in Chicago. His articles on politics, music and
culture have been featured in the Village Voice and other publications.
He also blogs at Chicagoist.
You are not logged in.
No comments yet, but
click here to be the first to comment on this