New Miami Gardens Police Chief Promises Change
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MIAMI GARDENS (CBSMiami) – A review of hundreds of “Field Contact” reports filed by Miami Gardens police officers over a period of 5 years appears to show a pattern that some believe suggests the department was operating under a “quota” system.
In dozens of instances, children under thirteen were labeled as “suspicious” simply for walking or riding bike around the city.
In one report, a boy was allegedly stopped in the middle of the day for “fitting the description of the suspect in the area of a burglary.” Documents show he was five years old
In another, an eight-year-old was labeled as “suspicious”. The remarks indicate his only infraction was being “a passenger on a scooter that was operating as a motor vehicle on the roadway.”
And an 11-year-old boy “wearing a red hoody” and “baseball type gloves” was dubbed “suspicious”. Turns out, he dressed for football practice.
“How are they suspicious? It’s just ridiculous,” according to Miami Gardens mother Synko English.
English said her two children, Dquantiz and Destiny, were labeled as “suspicious person(s)” several years ago.
“They were younger, 7 and 8 years old, and they were staying with their godmother for the day. I was at work so she was babysitting. They walked to a school park to play basketball and they were confronted by cops,” English explained.
“They put us in handcuffs and put us in back of the car,” Dquantiz explained.
His sister, Destiny, said “I didn’t know what to do. I was scared.”
English said her son was stopped again two years ago, while he was walking with friends.
She has taught her children to be respectful of authority and comply with any officer’s instructions, but said it’s frustrating to see her children questioned by police when murderers run free.
“I have a godson that was murdered here in Miami Gardens and nothing has been done about that as of yet. But still they’re stopping people, going inside stores and messing with people that actually work in stores. It doesn’t make sense when you should be out trying to catch real killers,” English said.
Last year, CBS4 sat down with a Miami Gardens officer who asked to remain anonymous.
He claimed the department employed a quota system and officers were instructed to profile based on race.
“The major of patrol came into our roll call and specifically state to narrow your focus to black males between the ages of 15 to 30,” the officer said in an interview last November.
The city and dozens of officers are listed as defendants in an ongoing civil rights lawsuit filed last fall accusing officers of systematically profiling, stopping, frisking, questioning and arresting people in the city for no legitimate reason.
The former Chief, Matthew Boyd, is listed in that complaint.
Since Boyd’s departure from the department amid the allegations, two other men have held the title of “Chief”.
The current man in charge at Miami Gardens PD is Chief Stephen Johnson, a former North Miami Police Chief and City Manager.
Johnson describes himself as an “out of the box” leader.
He said he plans on instituting outdoor roll calls to step up the department’s community policing efforts.
He wants to crackdown on gangs.
In an interview with CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana, Johnson said if quotas were used in the past, they aren’t used now.
“I don’t know what the practice was. I have chosen not to waste time in looking and reviewing that past policy,” Johnson said.
The chief said he believes the filed incident, or “FI”, cards were being filled out incorrectly.
He said what should have constituted “citizen contacts” were instead labeled as encounters with “suspicious persons”.
“They have been informed that I expect FI cards, or field interview cards to be quality, not quantity,” Johnson said. “We’re not concentrating on how many an officer does. It’s not a prerequisite as it was perceived by officers as a criteria to get in specialized units. These FI cards need to be linked to a specific crime that has occurred.”
The lawsuit filed against the city last November is expected to go to trial by December.
Some are calling on the Department of Justice to investigate.