|Inside scoop on troubles in Miami|
I am a sergeant on the Miami Police Department. Those of you who live outside the range of our local news broadcasts cannot appreciate how bad things are here. I can assure you that what you see in the news is not the full story. I presume there is a fear that we will loose tourist dollars if the rest of the US saw what we see everyday.
I was assigned to the front of Elian's house for most of this ordeal and I can tell you first hand, there were many times that things got very scary. Everyone has their opinion as to who should have custody of the boy, what kind of job the Attorney General did and if the Feds and Miami Police used excessive force during these events. If you are forming your opinion based upon news reports, there are certain things that were not reported that you may want to consider.
1. One of the network news stations was filming the protesters next to the house when they caught a woman on tape concealing a gun in her purse. They refused to release the footage to the police and she could not be identified.
2. The crowd had previously broken down the police barricades and charged the house. It was not known if the woman with the gun was still in the crowd.
3. A male protester sprayed his van gray and painted anti-Castro/Clinton comments all over it. He would drive to each police post and taunt the officers with vulgarities and obscenities. When the officers ignored him, he took a pit bull dog out of the van and encouraged the dog to bite the officers. This also happened with a different suspect at another location. The driver of the van returned the next night and he had cut off the roof and the upper third of the van. He had donned a helmet and he attempted to drive over people trying to get into the perimeter. He was identified and a records check revealed that he had made two attempts to buy a handgun that week. He returned the third night on a motorcycle and was arrested.
4. The family stated they would use force to keep the Feds from taking the boy and the cousin said she would die before giving up the child.
5. A group of men calling themselves the Cuban American Veterans Association had surrounded the house to provide "protection" for the family. There was intelligence that the house directly abutting the north back yard was occupied by three convicted felons and that they had weapons inside that could be passed over the fence.
There is no excuse for any officer to use unnecessary force. However, there are some mitigating factors to consider: The peaceful demonstrators hurled rocks that averaged in size as big as a baseball. I was struck in the chest by the corner of a concrete block and in the arm by a soda bottle. Although, we had nothing to do with the Feds decision to extricate the boy, we have been spit on, beaten and assaulted.
The vast majority of the protesters are very vocal but not violent. Most complied with the orders of the police to stay out of the street.
But within that group were agitators, drunks, gang members, exiles and Castro agents who wanted to cause trouble. These cowards shielded themselves in the crowd and provoked violence resulting in the escalation of police response. Occasionally, we were able to identify them and remove them with prejudice.
There are only so many police officers. Therefore, the nature of the disturbance demanded that the officers work well beyond their normal tour of duty. The effects of the heat, hours on post, fear and the endless tirade of taunts and jeers had its effect on the officers. After all, they are human. Ironically, not one Anglo officer has been accused of excessive force. Our department is 80 percent Cuban/Latin and the officers accused of the excessive force have been Latin.
In the beginning, some of the protesters decided to display their displeasure with the federal government by displaying the American flag upside down. The American flag is now being desecrated in ways that defy imagination. It is not uncommon to see it being dragged behind the bumper of a car. There are many people who find that behavior despicable. Many of our officers are veterans of the US Military and served their country in defense of the flag. They recognize there are cemeteries around the world filled with people who died to defend it. They are appalled by the fact that people who fled to this country to be free to protest would desecrate the very symbol of that freedom.
Regarding the firing of Don Warshaw and the retirement of Chief O'Brien, the loss of these two dedicated civil servants will have devastating effects on the ability of this City to heal. I had the honor and pleasure to serve directly under the command of both of these men. During their tenure, we had the greatest reduction in crime since the 1960's. As City Manager, Don Warshaw brought this City back from the brink of bankruptcy and brought our bond ratings up from junk ratings. Their only flaw was that they were professional civil servants, not politicians. Regretfully, this is not over yet. And thank you again for your thoughts and concerns.
- A sergeant in Miami