Miami commissioners accept city manager’s recommendation to terminate Chief Art Acevedo
Chief Art Acevedo’s suspension turned into termination of employment on Thursday night at Miami City Hall after a 6-month tenure as a designated outsider who had been tasked with reforming the Miami Police Department’s culture.
Miami Commissioners Joe Carollo, Manolo Reyes, Alex Díaz de la Portilla, Jeffrey Watson, and Ken Russell voted unanimously to accept City Manager Art Noriega’s recommendation to terminate Acevedo. Russell described the meeting before the vote as “a quasi-judicial hearing.”
Two assistant chiefs told the Miami commission that Art Acevedo has lost the confidence of the rank and file and executive staff of the police department.
Attorney John Byrne, who represented Acevedo during the meeting, said the move to fire him had nothing to do with his performance, but with the 8-page memo to Miami Mayor Francis X. Suarez. In it, Acevedo accused Carollo, Reyes, and Díaz de la Portilla of intervening with a police investigation, of manipulating the budget to get in the way of reform, and of other misconduct.
Acevedo also wrote he wanted the U.S. Department of Justice to review the department’s internal affairs process and non-fatal police incidents of excessive use of force.
“He was suspended because he had the courage to do what many of us don’t have the courage to do: To speak truth to power,” Byrne said.
Attorney John Byrne said during a commission meeting on Thursday that Miami Chief Art Acevedo’s firing had nothing to do with his performance, but with the 8-page memo he wrote to the mayor and the city manager.
Attorney Stephanie Marchman represented Noriega after he sent Acevedo a letter announcing his suspension and recommendation for termination on Monday. In it, he outlined eight points that include morale issues, off-color remarks, missteps in reporting car damage and vacation time, and issues with an unauthorized hire.
Marchman called Manuel “Manny” Morales, the interim chief and an MPD veteran, to the stand. Byrne made sure commissioners took into account that Morales had applied for Acevedo’s job. Morales said officers mistrusted Acevedo and were offended when he used insults such as Cuban Mafia, backstabbers, and snakes.
Morales also said Acevedo’s support of COVID-19 vaccine mandates, which he does not support himself, upset some Miami police officers.
“It’s a litany of things, but it perhaps boils down to the systematical or systematic demoralization of the police department that has been a result of his leadership style,” Morales said.
Byrne didn’t call any witnesses to the stand or made an effort to plead his case and said the city didn’t give Acevedo enough time to prepare a defense. The commission said their charter calls for the matter to be completed within five days and voted not to allow public comment.
“We believe that this outcome is already preordained,” Byrne said, adding, “This is not a fair setting.”
As Acevedo pushed for changes with firings and demotions, Acevedo might have miscalculated just how much backing he really had from Suarez, who referred to him as the “Michael Jordan of police chiefs” and Noriega, who avoided the commission’s involvement during his hiring process.
Acevedo garnered support from many in the department, including advocates of police reform who praised some of his early moves. A battle in civil court is almost a foregone conclusion.
To read more about what led up to the meeting, click here.
Read Acevedo’s memo