MIAMI (CBSMiami) – About two dozen of Miami police union members gathered in Peacock Park in Coconut Grove Thursday morning then marched to City Hall where they held a protest during the city commission meeting.
If the officers wanted to go inside commission chambers, they would have to go gun-free.
An unruly protest during the last commission meeting prompted Police Chief Manuel Orosa to issue 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.”
“They sort of acted as a mob,” said Commissioner Marc Sarnoff.
While the protest may seem to be about guns, the officers say they are protesting cuts to their pay and benefits.
“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,” Miami Fraternal Order of Police President Javier 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 group marched all over Coconut Grove, made a big display in Commission chambers, and the union president and the mayor even had a fiery exchange of words before even going inside.
“We’re going to go inside and we are going to sit in our seats as is your right as a citizen of this country and participate in the meeting,” said Officer Kenneth Rodriguez.
A few dozen Miami police officers put their guns in their car trunks.
Fraternal Order of Police President Javier Ortiz headed to City Hall with his gun and ended up in a heated debate with Mayor Tomas Regalado surrounded by a crush of media.
“What kind of message are we sending to the community when we’re not allowed to carry guns in your house, City Hall, but you tell the residents to trust us in their house,” said Ortiz.
“It’s the same thing you do when you go to federal court. You have to leave your weapon inside,” said Mayor Regalado.
Ortiz ended up giving up his gun and the commission meeting protest continued silently.
As officers passed through security without incident, they took to school yard tactics, taking the chiefs seat at commission. He didn’t seem amused.
In the end the fight has to do with money. The city offered the officers a raise but wants cuts in vacation and sick time and changes to retirement plans. Something they are not willing to do.
“We offered benefits. Your troops rejected them,” said Mayor Regalado.
“Our officers make $44,000. We have for the last four years. How much do you make,” responded Ortiz.
The city and police union are continuing collective bargaining over their benefits, and Regalado and Ortiz even ended their argument agreeing to meet next week.
The drama between them isn’t over.
The union along with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) are considering suing the City for forbidding certain armed officers from other police departments from entering the building on Thursday.Both sides say federal law is on their side.