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Miami’s rock star police chief suspended, likely to be fired after falling out with city leaders, cops

By Amir Vera, Rebekah Riess, Emma Tucker and Ryan Young, CNN

Following weeks of turmoil over his relationship with city leaders and rank-and-file police officers, embattled Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo was suspended by the city manager Monday night and told that city officials intend to “terminate his employment.”

In a statement released to the public, City Manager Art Noriega said the relationship between Acevedo and the police department “has become untenable and needed to be resolved promptly,” adding that the relationship between the chief and the department he was hired to lead earlier this year — as well as with the community — “has deteriorated beyond repair.”

“Relationships between employers and employees come down to fit and leadership style and unfortunately, Chief Acevedo is not the right fit for this organization,” the statement continued. “It is now time to move forward with the search for new leadership at MPD.”

Acevedo was suspended immediately and will remain so for five days until his termination is taken up by city commissioners, who are expected to rubber-stamp his firing.

The suspension and likely termination is a dramatic fall for Acevedo, who was the first Latino to lead the police department in Houston, and was dubbed by Miami’s mayor as the “Tom Brady or the Michael Jordan of police chiefs,” when he was hired.

Acevedo propelled himself to the national stage as a police leader who has been highly vocal in discussions about police reform and public safety, calling for national standards on the use of force by police and marching with protesters after George Floyd was killed by officers in Minneapolis.

CNN has reached out to Acevedo and the MPD for comment but has not heard back.

In an internal email obtained by CNN, Acevedo told officers on Monday to “be kind to each other” and advised that they engage in “Relational Policing,” a term that stresses the importance of law enforcement’s relationship with community members.

“I wanted to take a moment to thank you for your service and for your warmth and spirit,” Acevedo wrote in the email. “I urge you all to keep driving forward and to give the people of Miami the best service possible.”

Assistant Police Chief Manny Morales will be appointed as interim chief of the Miami Police Department as the city engages in the search for a permanent replacement, Noriega said.

City manager memo outlines next steps for Acevedo

In a memo to Acevedo, Noriega said the City Commission will hold proceedings within five days of Acevedo’s suspension to hear the allegations against him and decide how to move forward.

If the commission makes an affirmative judgment, Acevedo’s suspension will immediately become a removal, the memo said. If the commission decides the charges are not “well grounded,” Acevedo will be reinstated.

During his suspension, Acevedo is prohibited from issuing any commands, orders or directives as well as removing or destroying any of the city’s records, materials or equipment, according to the memo.

Acevedo’s suspension comes on the heels of city commissioners calling for his ouster during two contentious, hourslong meetings on September 27 and October 1 to discuss his decisions and behavior that were deemed questionable.

Acevedo wrote a bombshell memo to Mayor Francis Suarez and Noriega on September 24 in which he accused three city commissioners of of interfering with reform efforts and a confidential internal investigation.

Noriega’s memo said Acevedo had “lost the confidence and trust of the rank-and-file” as well as the executive staff after three incidents where Acevedo appeared to support a Covid-19 vaccination mandate for officers, received a vote of no confidence by the Fraternal Order of Police and witnessed his deputy chief “verbally assault his executive staff after a commission meeting and did not intervene” on October 1.

Acevedo also announced “city policy without authorization to speak on behalf of the City of Miami” when he insinuated that the city was considering “vaccine mandates and a potential dispute with the Governor to defend that policy,” the memo said.

Acevedo told officers during roll call in August that the “Cuban Mafia runs the Miami Police Department,” according to the memo.

His statement resulted in the alienation of a “large section of the department, his staff, and the public,” the memo said.

Acevedo later apologized, saying his comment was intended to “highlight the importance of diversity within our own ranks and to lighten our discussion,” but added that he has since learned it was “highly offensive to the exile Cuban community, of which I am a proud member.”

City manager calls Acevedo ‘brash’ and ‘hasty’

Because of these incidents, Noriega asked Acevedo to submit a plan to change issues within the police department.

Acevedo laid out a 90-day action plan October 4 to improve the department in several areas, including boosting officer morale, mending his relationship with elected officials and a policing and management plan.

But Noriega said the plan was “materially deficient” in addressing officer morale and community relations and offered “no significant plan to solve either problem.”

“In my view, there are problems with your leadership of the City of Miami Police Department which have been created and fostered over your twenty-three-week tenure,” Noriega wrote. “Instead of taking the time to first commit yourself to developing and fostering truth both within the department and the community, you were brash and hasty in many of your comments and actions.”

Acevedo began his law enforcement career with the California Highway Patrol in 1986 as a field patrol officer in Los Angeles and was named chief of the California Highway Patrol in 2005, according to his biography on MPD’s website. He then served as the chief of police in Austin, Texas, for more than nine years.

In 2016, he took the reins as police chief in Houston, where he served for more than four years before resigning in March.

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