Miami, FL – Today, the Florida State Conference of NAACP Branches and its Miami-Dade County Branch asked Attorney General Eric Holder to direct the Justice Department to act promptly to review the systemic pattern and practice of intimidation by officers of the Miami Gardens Police Department against African American residents in this community.
Many Miami Gardens residents have faced and continue to face harassment and misconduct carried out by the Miami Gardens Police Department. The police have made hundreds of apprehensions of innocent employees and customers of convenience stores for "trespassing." This supposed "zero tolerance" initiative by the department has left the Miami Gardens community shaken and uncertain of whether the police are willing to protect them from actual criminals.
"The Miami Gardens Police Department must be prevented from implementing their Zero Tolerance Zone Initiative. We are requesting that the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene immediately to protect the rights of the residents of Miami Gardens," stated Adora Obi Nweze, president of the NAACP Florida State Conference and the Miami Dade Branch.
Public records contain 27 video recordings from one store owner, Alex Saleh, who also filed a complaint with the internal affairs commander, Gary Smith. These recordings show police regularly questioning, frisking, and arresting people who not only have permission to be on the property, but also have not committed any crimes. This video archive documents what may be the most pervasive, most invasive, and most unjustified pattern of police harassment in the nation.
Absent federal oversight and intervention, the NAACP has no confidence that the Miami Gardens Police Department or other city officials will willingly conduct a complete and impartial investigation. In a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice, the Florida State Conference NAACP has called upon Eric Holder to deploy personnel to Miami Gardens immediately to uncover all of the facts, determine whether federal laws have been violated, prosecute those responsible, and ensure that new procedures are implemented to prevent recurrences.