MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The union representing black police officers in Miami has taken issue with Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina before, but now it has another complaint and they want him removed.
The union is saying Colina made a racial slur about Overtown when he was a training officer.
Colina told his entire department that the issue was resolved 23 years ago.
The head of the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association produced a reprimand that says the police chief received from police disciplinary review board about a racial slur he allegedly made.
Miami Community PBA president Stanley Jean-Poix says he has asked for the Miami police chief to be dismissed and wants a national search for a new chief.
“He used the N-word back in 1997,” Saint Jean-Poix. “This is not the type of language you should use. There was a reprimand and one thing I found was that everyone’s story lined up. We also have issues where some staff were using the N-word and the Chief never did anything about it. We believe Colina has shown some excessive vices and is tone deaf to us. I want to take this before the City Commission and he should be dismissed.”
In response, Colina said in a video statement released to the entire Miami police department that his comments were originally made when he was teaching a training class as an undercover officer in 1997.
Here is what Colina had to say:
“I started the class by saying I was going to be using language that could be very offensive and that was the point. When you’re working undercover you may have to act and say things that you wouldn’t normally say otherwise, whether they make you feel unfortunate or not and then I have many examples of what that could be.”
“A lot of that language was in fact offensive but again that was the point of the class. And though I was the highest-rated instructor and although I had no complaints I was called by the chief of police who was concerned.”
“He was uncomfortable with some of the language that I used and so I was given a reprimand for lack of tact and inconsideration. Not because I’m a bigot or a racist but because they weren’t happy with some of the language that I used. Period.”
Last November, the Miami Community PBA claimed Colina’s department unfairly treated black officers and said there was a lack of black officers in leadership.
Colina countered by saying he has the most black staff members in the history of the department. More than a quarter of his command staff is black.
“I have been here for 30 years and you can’t hide who you are. Everyone knows who I am,” said Colina.
CBS4’s Peter D’Oench also spoke with a group of four black Miami Police staff members who all had praise for Colina.
Major William R. Cook said, “I think it is ridiculous that this organization is taking this type of shot at the Chief when he has shown leadership and he is a leader when it comes to community-oriented policing as well as leadership inside this department.”
Miami Police Assistant Chief Cherise Gause also praised Colina’s leadership and said Major Cook accurately represented how the group felt.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said this about his police chief:
“He’s always had my support. There’s no employe who’s had unconditional support. If someone does something wrong we’re going to hold that person accountable but I think he’s been transparent about that happened.”
“We can’t let personal issues be part of the larger narrative and be used to inflate passions right now at a time we need to de-escalate,” said Mayor Suarez.
The police union wants Mayor Suarez to investigate.
Colina feels he is being unjustly and unfairly accused. He is also worried about divisiveness during this time of racial turmoil.