Some lawyers have suggested that the FBI investigate the Miami Gardens police department. It’s a good idea. There is more than enough evidence to warrant a federal probe.
Earl Sampson can’t walk the streets of Miami Gardens, Florida – or even sleep in his own bed – without being harassed by the city’s overzealous police officers who are systematically targeting black men. Sampson, 28, has been stopped, questioned, and searched by Miami Gardens police more than 250 times in the last four years.
He has been arrested 62 times for trespassing at the Quickstop convenience store –where he works.
The situation has gotten so dire that Quickstop store owner Alex Saleh filed a civil rights lawsuit against the Miami Gardens police department on Sampson’s behalf, gave Sampson a bedroom in the back of the store to protect him from police, and installed video surveillance cameras to videotape police harassing Sampson.
And there’s more.
“In 2010, a young black man was stopped and questioned by police on the streets of Miami Gardens, Florida,” Fusion reported. “According to the report filled out by the officer, he was “wearing gray sweatpants, a red hoodie and black gloves” giving the police “just cause” to question him. In the report, he was labeled a ‘suspicious person.’ He was an 11-year-old boy on his way to football practice.”
So Miami Gardens police have been exposed by the media for an outrageous racial profiling operation and possible civil rights violations. Now what? The new police chief, Stephen Johnson, is Black. Johnson took over as chief in May so none of the racial profiling and alleged civil rights violations happened on his watch. But how Johnson handles this situation moving forward is critical.
What will Johnson say to black men like Denzel Flowers, a 15-year-old who has been stopped 27 times, often in his neighborhood park in the middle of the day?
“We were all chillin’ in the park,” Flowers, who is now 20, told Fusion. “The police stopped everybody. Told us don’t move and ran everybody’s names.” Flowers has been stopped 27 times and arrested four times – but never convicted of a crime.
“I couldn’t leave my house without being in fear,” Flowers said.
Chief Johnson is only the second police chief of Miami Gardens. Last month, at his first Miami Gardens City Council meeting, Johnson gave out his cell phone number so residents can call him with concerns. He asked, however, that residents not call past 12:30 a.m.
“I would like to become more accessible for the community,” Johnson said. “I want to be out there. I want my command staff to be with me.”
Being accessible to the community is important, but eradicating racial profiling, ending racist stop-and-frisk tactics, and stopping his officers from unnecessarily harassing innocent Black citizens should be Johnson’s first priority.