A Black high-ranking Miami police officer is suing the city and former police captain Javier Ortiz on allegations of fostering a racist and sexist environment, per the Miami Herald. The suit claims Ortiz and a former police chief demoted her in a concerted effort to humiliate her and undermine her authority.
Maj. Keandra Simmons filed a civil rights lawsuit alleging Ortiz and former police chief Art Acevedo defamed her and subjected her to a hostile work environment. According to the report, things escalated after a rumor circulated that Simmons failed to hand in a crash report regarding an incident with a Coconut Grove Police Commander. After that, Simmons claims Acevedo and Ortiz worked together to target her and push her back down the ladder.
Simmons noted a number of incidents including Acevedo admitting he’s “uncomfortable” hiring women of color, city staff interrogating her following a rumor that she only dated white men, as well as the continual questioning of her decisions. By August 2021, Simmons was demoted to a lieutenant doing street patrols.
Mind you, both Ortiz and Acevedo were fired by the city in October 2021: Ortiz for getting caught beating on a homeless man, and Acevedo for making controversial changes to the internal affairs unit on police misconduct, reports say.
Seeing a Black woman in power get challenged for her position isn’t new or surprising. In fact, it’s expected. Simmons didn’t reach the peak of her 16-year career, though, only to be demoted over nothing.
“Keandra was put through the mill. The damage is done,” said Simmons’ attorney Michael Pizzi, per the report.
Read more from the Miami Herald:
Several others, including the former head of Internal Affairs were also demoted during that time period. Nerly Papier and her husband Ron Papier, a deputy chief who had run internal affairs for a decade, were fired.
In December, new Chief Manny Morales returned the ranks of all the demoted officers and rehired Nerly and Ron Papier. Not everyone went back to their former jobs, but they were paid retroactively and were returned to their ranks.
Still, Pizzi said, Simmons believes the moves were unwarranted and unfair, derailing her career and staining her record.
“He got rid of one of the highest-ranking Black female officers and got Caucasians to replace them. There was no reason to do that,” Pizzi said. “He [Acevedo] humiliated Simmons. He made it seem like she was part of some corrupt cover-up. He damaged her reputation.”