The cops who allegedly beat the gay man in front of Strickland continued that effort. Officers Eliut Hazzi and Frankly Forte had been hired in 2007. Both had run-ins with internal affairs and their bosses before that March night.

Forte had been put on probation as an officer in training for repeatedly botching responses and ignoring radio calls. Still, he earned a full-time job, records show.

On March 2, 2008 — about a year before his encounter with Strickland — Hazzi was involved in another ugly incident. Santos Ordoñez, manager of Gallery Deja Vu on Ocean Drive, had gone out with friends after work and had a few beers. A little after 11 p.m., he returned to the gallery for his car keys and accidentally set off the security alarm. He called the gallery owner and the security company, but police responded anyway.

Illustrations by Pat Kinsella
Illustrations by Pat Kinsella

The officers — Hazzi and two others — burst in with a police dog and hit him in the face, Ordoñez says. The blow was strong enough to break several teeth. After wrestling the manager into a police car, the cops zapped him with a stun gun, Ordoñez claims. "They never even gave me a chance to explain who I was," he says.

Internal affairs exonerated all three officers of charges of excessive force. The then-26-year-old Hazzi was back on the streets and eventually partnered with Forte.

After the attack in March 2009 that Strickland watched, Hazzi and Forte were reassigned to desk work while internal affairs reviews what the chief called "inconsistencies" in their report. Hazzi, incidentally, earned $108,371.27 last year. Forte isn't among the 200 cops who made six figures.

After Strickland announced plans to sue, Chief Noriega met with members of the Beach's GLBT Business Enhancement Committee on February 9 of this year. "I thought we had a great relationship here," he told them.

But several group members disagreed. Chip Arndt, who runs a gay Democratic caucus, read an email from a young gay tourist who said Miami Beach cops showered him with gay slurs and ran him and his boyfriend off the sand. "You may think that what happened to Howard was an isolated incident, but it wasn't," Arndt said.

Noriega's chief spokesman, Det. Juan Sanchez, who is gay, was given a seat on the GLBT committee. Sanchez has promised to better address hate crime calls to a hot­line. And a lesbian captain was assigned to internal affairs to handle complaints.

"I believe we have always maintained a positive relationship with the city's GLBT Community," Martinez says.


The allegations of improper treatment of minorities aren't limited to gays. Officer Rabih El-Jourdi and his nephew say the department discriminated against them. El-Jourdi was hired in 1999. Almost immediately, he says, other officers began mocking his Muslim faith and Arabic heritage.

His first field training officer called him a "camel jockey and a sand nigger," he says in a series of internal affairs complaints. His second one called him a "rag head" and a "shit bird." Once, a few years later, when his patrol car became stuck on the beach, another officer asked, "Your camel got stuck in the sand? I thought you were from the desert and you don't get stuck in the sand," El-Jourdi says.

Two of the officers he says most frequently tormented him — Sgt. Steve Feldman and Officer John Pereira — are, incidentally, two of the highest-paid in the department. Feldman recently earned $190,655; Pereira picked up $133,842 last year.

According to El-Jourdi, Feldman was fond of patting him down and asking "Where is your C-4?" insinuating he was a suicide bomber. Pereira, he says, refused to stop calling him a "camel jockey."

El-Jourdi claims he waited years to report the incidents because he wanted to be a "team player." But then his nephew, Sweetwater Police Officer Feras Mohammad Ahmad, began working in 2007 on the Beach as a reserve officer. Ahmad immediately faced the same racial slurs and intimidation, El-Jourdi says.

In November 2008, Ahmad filed a civil suit against the City of Miami Beach and the Police Department, detailing the charges. El-Jourdi, in turn, made an internal affairs complaint. Internal affairs investigators ruled the complaint "unsubstantiated" — largely because it came down to a he-said/she-said with the other officers.

The city and the cops have denied the accusations and asked a judge to dismiss them.

Martinez, the department's assistant chief, says the MBPD's overall diversity belies any charges of racism. "Currently 73 percent of the sworn personnel of the department are minorities and 56 percent of the supervisors [sergeants and above] are minorities," he says.


Despite all of those problems, Beach cops earn more than those at other, similarly sized departments in South Florida. In Hialeah, a force with 333 sworn officers, 30 cops topped $100,000 in taxpayer-funded salaries and overtime last year, according to city records. That's only 9 percent of the department, compared to 49 percent of officers on the Beach.

It's even more than tony Coral Gables, where 30 percent of the force earned $100,000 or more, or North Miami Beach, where the number was roughly 40 percent.

The City of Miami has 84 cops whose base salaries top $100,000 — including Chief Miguel Exposito's $196,000 a year — which is 7 percent of the force's 1,110 cops. But that number doesn't include overtime work, which the city claimed it was unable to calculate.

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1 comments
vienna221
vienna221

Two years later, in 2013, is this still true? Because my 8-yr-old son was violently kidnapped and believed murdered ... and I am still waiting for the US government - any agency, any level,  I'm not particular which - to find his body. And return it to me for burial. And to prosecute the killer. Especially when there are rumors all over the DC / Virginia / MD area, where the kidnap / killing occured, of at least one local law enforcement individual being involved; (police or FBI who assault and then are not found out for years, is not uncommon); when the original local police reports on the kidnap are "missing," etc. And so I wait day after day after day, as a grieving mother - and this is the worst grief  - for news of my little child. and for justice. and am told, there is not enough money. there are not enough "resources." the case is too "cold." 

If we are paying police more than we are paying the US Vice President, I expect them to be good enough to find a little boy's body. Even good enough to prevent our children from being slaughtered, to begin with. there should be no crime at all, at such salaries. Because I know that social workers and teachers are not making this much. and they are the ones interacting daily, with our children. and I know that when I stop - as a mother with very very little resources of her own, because i spend everything I can spare on my child's search - to help other families, standing under a bridge here in miami, for ex., with a baby with no shoes and no food and no diapers, in this heat and humidity all day ... that maybe those getting over $200k could be stopping, too. and yet these families tell me, that no one who looks like they can afford to stop, actually stops. 

So I just thought I would ask, as a mother, WHY you would pay so much to regular officers? when so many are going without. with little children. and there is so little dedicated to children's safety, or predator apprehension. and when many professions are in risk positions,  especially in fields like intelligence, and do not receive such salaries. I have said the same thing, so that I do not appear biased, as a federal contractor, about CEO salaries. Because it is a shame and dishonor to support companies, with tax relief and tax incentives, who then pay their executives several million. 

But I will tell you what one officer responded, when i went round a block recently, and asked him for help with a homeless person in a wheelchair - he said not to worry, that such people "want" to be homeless. I hope this officer was not one of those collecting over $200k. Perhaps if you dropped police salaries down to an even $150k, you could afford to collect less, in tickets? Or could afford to support homeless children more? or could afford to look for cold cases... when each "case" is really a suffering little child, screaming and begging for their mother - if we are to believe witnesses in my son's "cold case." 

I would expect every drunk, every drug dealer, every casino male, every worthless male criminal, to be shut up in a cage forever, if these are the salary levels, here in Miami. Because if police had done their jobs - or FBI - properly to begin with, my son would still be alive. 



 
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