MIAMI (CBSMiami) – A federal civil rights lawsuit was filed Wednesday against the city of Miami Gardens and dozens of municipal employees alleging officers are systematically profiling, stopping, frisking, questioning and arresting people in the city for no legitimate reason.
Many of these police encounters occurred at the 207 Quickstop, a convenience store on NW 207 Street in Miami Gardens where the owner, Alex Saleh, installed security cameras to catch officers in the act.READ MORE: 'Sick To My Stomach': Dollar Tree Fanatics Protest New $1.25 Prices
“I’ve seen the outrageous police abusing people in the community,” Saleh told CBS4’s Lauren Pastrana in an interview before the suit was filed. “They’ve been treating the people wrong.”
Last week, CBS4 introduced you to Earl Sampson, a Quickstop employee who’s been arrested for trespassing dozens of times at the store, even though he works there and has permission to be on the premises.
Sampson is listed as one of the plaintiffs in the case.
“They’re always stopping me, going in my pockets, asking me for my ID, running my name,” Sampson told Pastrana.
According to his attorney, Stephan Lopez with the Reyes Law Group, Sampson has been stopped at least once a week over the last four years, that’s more than 200 times, as part of the department’s zero-tolerance crime reduction policy.
Sampson’s most serious conviction is for marijuana possession.
Many of his arrests were captured on camera at the store.
In some cases, the recorded events do not match what is explained in the corresponding police reports.
Earlier this week, CBS 4 sat down with a tenured police officer currently with the Miami Gardens police department who says the unreasonable stops are done to beef up the agency’s statistics.
The officer, who asked not to be identified, said he was told to profile based on race.
“There was a time when the major of patrol came into our roll call and specifically stated to narrow your focus to black males between the ages of 15 to 30,” the officer said in an exclusive interview with Pastrana.
The 144 page lawsuit (all pages attached to the bottom of the article) lists Mayor Oliver Gilbert and Police Chief Matthew Boyd among the dozens of defendants.
In a text message Friday, the mayor told Pastrana “Some of the actions depicted in the videos… are acceptable. The city manager is investigating and will take appropriate action as he deems necessary and appropriate for the maintaining of professional Police Department that respects, protects and serves the community.”
CBS 4 obtained additional videos which Saleh said show the police department harassing his employees and customers.
In one clip, a woman named Toree Daniels is seen standing outside the Quickstop when an officer grabs her purse and dumps everything inside on the ground.
The field contact report said Daniels was loitering outside the store drinking a can of beer, but it made no mention of the officer’s actions.
In another video, an officer yanked a bag of Red Bull drinks from Omar Dean and threw them on the sidewalk.READ MORE: Add Over-The-Counter Medicine To List Of Growing Shortages
Saleh said he gave Dean the drinks.
A clip from February shows Roderick Smith seemingly being roughed up by officers.
The report said Smith was drinking outside the store and that he was placed in custody and released.
There’s no mention of him resisting arrest, yet Saleh said the video appears to show officers throwing him to the ground.
We tried to speak to Police Chief Mathew Boyd Wednesday, but were unable to reach him directly.
He previously issued a statement which said, in part, “Whenever we receive a complaint regarding one of our officers, not only do we take it seriously, but we swiftly investigate the allegations. Our goal as a department is to enforce the laws of the state of Florida in a manner that shows respect and concern for the residents and businesses that we are charged with protecting.”
Boyd plans to retire in January.
City Manager Cameron Benson, who says he takes the allegations very seriously and is launching an investigation.
“The videos at first glance are somewhat disturbing,” he said in an interview with Pastrana.
He outlined the following steps on how he plans to deal with the claims made in the suit.
1. (The city has) initiated an in-depth internal investigation into these allegations.
2. (The city has) requested that the State Attorney’s Office review all findings to ensure that all violations of administrative procedures or misconduct are swiftly and comprehensively addressed.
3. (The city) will be working with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) to ensure that the City’s Police department is in compliance with all approved procedures.
Deputy Police Chief Paul Miller, former mayor Shirley Gibson, and former city manager Dr. Danny Crew are also listed as defendants in the complaint, along with dozens of officers.CBS4's Steve Goldstein Has The Latest On The High-Flying Panthers