Those familiar with Miami politics say they can sometimes lean toward the dramatic. That was no less true during a City Commissioners’ meeting on Monday, which a reporter described as a “circular firing squad” against Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo.
“What we witnessed yesterday was an entire daylong hearing, just talking – trash-talking – the police chief. We’ve never seen something like that; I’ve never seen something like that,” said WLRN reporter Danny Rivero.
At the meeting, commissioners pointed to problems they saw with Acevedo’s record when he was police chief in Austin and Houston. Acevedo led the Austin Police Department from 2007 to 2016. He then led the Houston Police Department before leaving in April 2021 to take over in Miami.
The New York Times has called Acevedo a “celebrity police chief.” He earned national attention when he marched with Black Lives Matter demonstrators after the police killing of George Floyd. But he now appears at risk of losing his job in Miami.
Listen to the interview with Rivero above or read the transcript below to learn more about how Acevedo found himself in this situation, and what happens next.
This transcript has been lightly edited for clarity:
Texas Standard: What has Acevedo done that’s so quickly gotten him in hot water with Miami city commissioners?
Danny Rivero: In some ways, the issues with Chief Acevedo started before he actually did anything at all. There [were] issues that the commissioners had with the process in which he was hired. Our mayor, Francis Suarez, kind of brought Acevedo in and sidestepped the hiring committee that was supposed to be hiring the next police chief. So right when he came in, he was already in hot water in some ways. And then he did a kind of a series of things that angered the commissioners and also some people in the police department. He [demoted several officers], he referred to some members of the police department as the “Cuban Mafia,” which a lot of people here in the Cuban-American community were very angered about. So it’s kind of escalated quickly.
What in Acevedo’s record did commissioners point to yesterday?
The whole meeting, which lasted the entire day, was focused on Chief Acevedo’s history and what the city manager and the city administration actually knew about his history before he was brought on as a police chief. And so they were talking about his history in Austin, how he allegedly mishandled rape test kits when he was a police chief in Austin, how he might have contributed to rape culture in the Austin Police Department. There were also questions about his actions in Houston, about the crime stats under his tenure and just a variety of controversies in Acevedo’s career going back to the late 1980s when he was in the California Highway Patrol. So it was really just all about all the misdeeds he’s done across the decades.
And Acevedo has cast his own accusations against the commissioners.
Over the weekend, he wrote a memo, actually, to the Department of Justice asking the FBI to investigate three sitting commissioners alleging serious misconduct, actually, and potential corruption, basically saying that the commissioners are interfering with internal affairs investigations and that they are trying to direct his officers to investigate their political opponents. We do know the FBI has acknowledged that they’re aware of it. We don’t know if they are investigating it. But some of those allegations tossed in the commissioner’s directions are actually not brand new. These are things that have been talked about for some time. But now the police chief is involved.
Is the kind of city drama highlighted in Monday’s meeting pretty typical for Miami? And what’s next?
This kind of high drama is somewhat typical. But I will say, what we witnessed yesterday was an entire, daylong hearing, just talking – trash-talking – the police chief. We’ve never seen something like that; I’ve never seen something like that. And they’re not done. They actually called another meeting on Friday to continue with it because they weren’t done going through Acevedo’s full record and his time in Texas. So we’re going to see more of this. The commissioners are basically, several of them, they’re pushing for him to be fired.