COCONUT GROVE (CBSMiami) – Miami Police officers plan to stage a demonstration outside Thursday’s city commission meeting, and if they want to go inside commission chambers, they’ll have to go gun-free.
They will be protesting cuts to their pay and benefits, not the police chief’s recent decision to ban officer’s from taking their weapons inside the public meetings, according to a letter from Miami Fraternal Order of Police President Javier Ortiz.
“This demonstration is not about firearms. We will abide by all Federal, State, and Local laws pertaining to the possession of firearms in private and public settings,” Sgt. Ortiz wrote. “It is unfortunate that city leadership has chosen to focus on the action of law abiding demonstrators and the irrelevant, albeit lawful, possession of firearms by sworn, certified, law enforcement officers.”
The decision comes after a meeting in February where officers’ chants of “Restore pay!” essentially brought the meeting to a standstill.
“They sort of acted as a mob,” Commissioner Marc Sarnoff said.
Police Chief Manuel Orosa issued a policy where “officers are prohibited from carrying firearms into city hall while meeting of a government body is in session unless they are on duty and handling a call, assigned to city hall, or as authorized by the chief of police.”
Commissioner Francis Suarez told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana Wednesday he would rather officers keep their weapons handy.
“With all due respect, I disagree with the Chief’s decision on that issue,” Suarez said. “I think it sends the wrong signal to our citizens that we can’t trust our police officers that they have to check their weapons at the door.”
Suarez said he respects the officers’ right to protest; a right he says they earn by putting their lives in danger everyday.
“I think as a commission we have to do a better job of maintaining the order we’re expected to maintain,” he said. “Obviously, as officers, they’re expected to maintain a certain decorum.”
Fraternal Order of Police President Javier Ortiz previously said the chief has lost control of his officers.
“This is solely an intimidating position made by the chief in order to silence us,” Ortiz said.
As far as the reason for the protest, it doesn’t look like the union will be backing down from its demands.
“Do not judge the administration by what they say, judge them by what they have done,” Ortiz wrote. “We are entering the fourth year of devastating pay and pension cuts and all we are asking for is the restoration of these benefits and to be compensated equally with our counterparts in South Florida.”
Officers plan to meet at Peacock Park Thursday morning at 7:45 and then march together to city hall.
They have pulled two permits for protests around city hall.
The police chief and his staff are expected there bright and early as well.