The Florida State Conference of the NAACP and the Miami-Dade County branch formally issued a letter on Tuesday requesting that Attorney General Eric Holder push the Justice Department to investigate allegations of police abuse in the city of Miami Gardens.
Miami Gardens in particular has been plagued with accounts of police allegedly abusing their authority under a "zero-tolerance" initiative, which gives them broad liberties in questioning and arresting people who appear to be trespassing or loitering.
Alex Saleh’s Quickstop store has been subjected to the intense and unjustified police monitoring. One of his employees was arrested approximately 62 times for trespassing while working at the store. Saleh’s frustration with the situation led him to install video cameras to catch the police in action (which he did—see videos below) and file a lawsuit.
These are the allegations to which the NAACP is responding, regarding it "critical" to have an "impartial entity" go in and find out what is going on with this particular practice of the Miami Gardens Police Department.
"This video archive documents what may be the most pervasive, most invasive, and most unjustified pattern of police harassment in the nation," the NAACP wrote in the letter to Holder, referencing Saleh’s video log.
"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," the organization added. "We therefore call upon [the Justice Department] 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 and effectively reduce crime without abusive tactics."
The NAACP believes that necessary action is needed not just because of the potential violation of civil rights but also because if public distrust in the police department continues, officers may be incapable of doing their jobs.
"This outrageous pattern of behavior by police officers over a long period of time visited on our community and, in this case, young and African-American men from what evidence seems to show were not doing anything wrong gravely undermines the expectation of protection and public trust that’s necessary for the police department to do its job," David Honig, special counsel for the Florida NAACP and president of the Minority Media and Telecommunications Council, said during a press call Tuesday.
According to Honig, the NAACP is less focused on whether it is a case of racial profiling and more focused on the offense dealt to residents’ "basic civil rights protections and expectations."
"We don’t really classify this as a profiling case," he said, adding that it could involve profiling but they would wait for the Justice Departments analysis of the situation. "[It’s] about … people’s right to dignity. Regardless of if it is happening to only black people, you can’t fight crime and not have the community trust you."
Miami Gardens is about 70 percent African American and admittedly has a problem with crime. The police squad accused of the violations consisted mainly of white people and Latinos.
Watch some of Saleh's video footage here: