Once hailed as “the best police chief in America,” Art Acevedo is suspended in Miami

MIAMI — The city of Miami has suspended and intends to fire its police chief, Art Acevedo.

Miami’s city manager Art Noriega sent Acevedo a memo Monday listing the reasons for his termination. Noriega said the police chief failed to follow department protocols, he had lost the confidence of his officers and had made improper comments that damaged community relations.

Acevedo came to Miami after gaining a national profile in Texas as a police chief in Houston and Austin. At a news conference announcing his hire in April, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez called him “the best chief in America.”

After taking the job, Acevedo quickly made some controversial moves. He fired two high-ranking officers and demoted others. He also started getting into conflicts with members of Miami’s city commission. The growing criticism of Acevedo came to a head last month when, at a morning police roll call meeting, he referred to the people running the department as “the Cuban Mafia.

Miami’s city commission held two meetings grilling the city manager about the police chief’s hiring. Three of the five members of the commission are Cuban-American and they made it clear they felt Acevedo’s comments were aimed at them. Commission member Alex Diaz de la Portilla said, “He wants the press to believe that he is a great reformer that came…to get rid of the Cuban Mafia, the bad guys. Because we’re the corrupt ones, right?” Diaz de la Portilla said, “We’re supposed to take the hit? I’m not going to allow that to happen.”

Like the three city commissioners, Acevedo is also Cuban-American. He was born in Havana but grew up in Los Angeles. He apologized for his comments, saying he was unaware that that Fidel Castro had often referred to Miami’s exile community as “the Cuban Mafia.”

Acevedo further angered officials with an 8-page memo he sent to the city manager detailing a series of incidents that he said showed improper interference by city commissioners. He said he planned to ask the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice to conduct an investigation.

In a statement announcing Acevedo’s suspension, city manager Noriega said the chief’s relationship with the police department had “deteriorated beyond repair” and that’s it’s time to find a new leader for the department. In a memo he sent to members of the police department, Acevedo said, “it has been a privilege serving with you and fighting for you.” And he said, “I promise to continue to fight the good fight to rid the MPD of the political interference from city hall that unfortunately continues to negatively impact his organization.”

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