There is a widely held belief that no matter what you’re doing, doing it while black automatically makes it a punishable offense. A police investigation in Miami has further backed that assertion.
The New York Times reports that an internal investigation by the Miami Police Department found that Sgt. Mario Menegazzo was justified in handcuffing Dr. Armen Henderson outside his home on April 10. On April 10, Henderson was picking up boxes when he was approached by Menegazzo. There had been reports of illegal dumping in the area and Menegazzo asked if Henderson was dumping his trash. After a brief exchange of words, the officer handcuffed the doctor.
“As a sworn police officer, Sergeant Menegazzo had the right to detain Dr. Henderson until his reasonable suspicion that Dr. Henderson was dumping illegally was dispelled,” the report said. Henderson filed a complaint with the Police Department’s Civilian Investigative Panel, which resulted in the investigation.
“I felt that it was ridiculous that, No. 1, that the stop was justified, and then the detainment was justified as well. It’s like, when are we going to start holding people accountable for their actions? I was very sad, very disgusted at the report I read.” Henderson told the Times. While the report found Menegazzo justified in the cuffing, it also found he committed multiple violations during the incident. These included pointing and yelling into Henderson’s face, not wearing a mask as is protocol during the pandemic, and failing to notify dispatchers that he was carrying out an investigative stop.
The report wasn’t clear if any disciplinary action will be taken against Menegazzo for those violations. Chief Jorge Colina of the Miami Police Department has said that Menegazzo would be reprimanded and the violations would become a permanent part of his file.
Henderson practices internal medicine in the University of Miami Health System. He has been working in the community during the pandemic, providing free coronavirus tests for Miami’s homeless and was on his way to provide tents for the homeless when he was stopped by Menegazzo. Henderson told the Times he intends to file a lawsuit against Menegazzo as he felt not only racially profiled by the officer but that “the officer put my life in danger by not having a mask on.”