October 19, 2021
Editorial: Miami Police Chief Acevedo about to be fired; Mayor Suarez, you blew it

Mayor Francis Suarez, this is on you..

Brash and embattled Miami Police Chief Art Acevedo, on the job for only six months, was suspended Monday night and seems sure to be fired within a week. And after weeks of silence and, worse, inarticulate evasiveness about the pickle in which your pick for police chief found himself, the best you could say at a Tuesday press conference was that Acevedo’s “personality and leadership style are incompatible with the structure of our city’s government.”

How lame, How late to the game. 

Your decision to bypass public scrutiny and secretly hire a flashy police chief has crashed and burned, embarrassing the city and distracting its police force from their vital public service mission, while stopping vital department reforms in their tracks. 

Never mind what Chief Acevedo did wrong, though the list long: his thirst for the spotlight, his ignorance of the city’s complex ethnic politics, his blunt public criticism of colleagues, his haste in firing or demoting some leaders in his department, while continuing to embrace bully cop Javier Ortiz, his stupidity in posing for pictures with the Proud Boys and his failure to understand just what the words “Cuban Mafia” mean in this town.

Miami City Commissioner Joe Carollo, who led the charge to get rid of Acevedo, insisted the chief had not been properly vetted for the $315,000 a year job. He was right. Regardless of Acevedo’s antics, the original sin here is how he was hired.

You, as mayor, came up with this cockamamie plan to bypass a search committee’s detailed recommendation for finalists for chief, cajoled the city manager to buy into it and spirited Acevedo from Houston to Miami in secrecy. 

The week of Acevedo’s unveiling to Miami, this Editorial Board pressed you about hiring a police chief for a world-renowned city in a process cloaked in secrecy. But we also said Acevedo deserved a chance to serve this city, expressing high hopes that he would succeed.

That day, and time and again since, you have maintained that was the only way to do it without tipping his hand. After all, Acevedo was “the Michael Jordan” of chiefs, a frequent CNN commentator. You bought the hype.

We warned that skipping those necessary steps — to ensure a responsible decision, engage the support of key stakeholders, and give all applicants a fair shot — would come to no good one day. In fact, it took 189 days.

If you had made your intentions to hire Acevedo public, we might have found out that many in Houston were glad to see Acevedo go, as we have learned since.

Your recent tactic of putting distance between yourself and Acevedo put you in an even dimmer light. If you truly believed in your decision, why not stand by it? Why weren’t you out there defending your guy? Maybe you knew what was coming after commissioners flogged Acevedo in a two-day marathon. 

Technically, the manager suspended Acevedo pending termination, giving him the choice to resign or have a hearing. An action plan the chief turned in, Noriega wrote in his suspension letter to Acevedo, was “materially deficient.” It also detailed other offenses by Acevedo, like taking more than 20 days off without listing them as vacation days. But at this point, the city manager was only setting Acevedo up to fail.

Acevedo doesn’t have much support on the dais. Miami City Commissioner Manolo Reyes indicated to the Board that Acevedo is likely out, and Alex Diaz de la Portilla has joined in on the assault on Acevedo. Commissioner Ken Russell and Jeffrey Watson could be swayed. Maybe.

Carollo, Acevedo’s main nemesis, told the Board Monday night he will not comment on how he will vote on Acevedo’s future at the crucial meeting if the police chief appears before the commission.

“But if Chief Acevedo wants to be heard by the commission, I’m going to allow him to speak his piece, which is more than what he did for all those Miami police officers he has demoted or fired without allowing them to have their say,” Carollo said.

In a press conference Tuesday outside your second-floor office, Mr. Mayor, you supported the decision of the city manager to suspend the chief and recommend his firing to the commission. “This is not about fault,” you said. “I and every elected official had the expectation and the hope that this would work out.”’

No, Mr. Mayor, it’s all about fault. And the fault is all yours.