MIAMI BEACH (CBS4) – The American Civil Liberties Union has filed a suit naming the City of Miami Beach and two of the city’s police officers for the wrongful arrest of Harold Strickland, a gay former Miami Beach resident.
According to the suit, Miami Beach officers Frankly Forte and Elliot Hazzi arrested Strickland in March 2009 after he called 911 to report that he saw the two officers beat and kick a man who lay handcuffed on the ground near Flamingo Park last year.
Strickland claims the officers made anti-gay remarks and accused him attempting to break into parked cars. He was charged with prowling and loitering.
“Lots of gay bashing words were used,” said ACLU legal director Randall Marshall. “The department unfortunately has a history of arresting and harassing gay men for doing nothing more than being gay in Flamingo Park.”
When pressed, Marshall said his evidence was complaints against the Miami Beach Police Department.
The ACLU said evidence including the tape recording of Strickland’s 911 call, Strickland’s cell phone record, and the officers’ own arrest affidavits, indicates that the officers lied in their report of the incident in order to cover-up their misconduct. Prosecutors dropped all charges against Strickland in October 2009.
The ACLU said both Forte and Hazzi have been relieved of duty with pay.
In response to the suit Miami Beach officials issued the following statement:
“It is not the City’s policy to comment on pending litigation or open investigations. The allegations made by Mr. Strickland regarding an incident that reportedly occurred in March, 2009 (and was reported to the City in February, 2010) were immediately investigated by the City of Miami Beach Police Department (Internal Affairs Unit), and were referred to the State Attorney’s office, where their investigation remains open.”
Strickland is seeking more than $15 thousand in damages.