The American Civil Liberties Union of
Florida (ACLU) announced Wednesday its intention to sue the City of
Miami Beach over its targeting and arrests of gay men.
The civil rights group is representing
Harold Strickland, a gay former Miami Beach resident the ACLU alleges
was wrongfully arrested on March 13, 2009.
Strickland was harassed and arrested
after he called 911 to report that two Miami Beach police officers
were beating and kicking a gay man who lay handcuffed on the ground
in Flamingo Park.
According to police officers' arrest
affidavits, Strickland, 45, was arrested for loitering and prowling
in the park, charges he pleaded no contest to.
“While we were sitting inside the
vehicle parked at the end of the parking lot observing Def looking
into vehicles, he went to our vehicle and looked at us then he went
to the back of the parking lot and concealed himself in between the
bushes while he continued to look towards our vehicle (unmarked).
Def then approached the Front Driver's door. At this point I exited
my vehicle and Def attempted to engage in conversation with me. …
As soon as Def found out I was a police officer he took off running
while I was asking him his name. I ran after Def and was able to
catch up to him and place him into custody,” one affidavit says.
Strickland's 911 call, however,
conflicts with reports by arresting officers Frankly Forte and Elliot
In that call, placed around 1AM,
Strickland is heard telling a female operator that he just witnessed
what appears to be two gay men being chased out of the park by two
undercover police officers after making out.
“I saw a guy running and then I saw
two what looked like undercover cops running,” Strickland said.
“And they pushed this guy on the ground, the one cop did, and the
other cop came up, as if he was kicking a football and kicked the guy
in the head. Just some aggressive behavior going on and I'm not sure
it's acceptable, to be honest.”
Strickland says he's visiting the city
and does not want to get involved, but as the man in being placed
into a van by officers, he agrees to report the vehicle's license
“The car says lost tags,” he says
in the recording as police officers approach him.
“What are you doing out here?” an
“I'm just walking around,”
“I live in Los Angeles,” Strickland
answers an officer who asks, “Where do you live?”
“Let's see some ID,” an officer
Strickland is heard saying, “You want
to see my ID?” as the call ends.
Police officers told Strickland, “We
know what you're doing here. We're sick of all the fucking fags in
the neighborhood.” The officers pushed him to the ground,
handcuffed him and called him a “fucking fag,” according to an
ACLU letter sent to the city.
“The issue here is not just the
violation of Mr. Strickland's rights as a gay man,” Ray Taseff, an
ACLU cooperating attorney, said. “All people have a clear
constitutional right and a civic duty to report police conduct. When
police start arresting people for reporting police misconduct, the
public's faith in law enforcement suffers.”
According to the ACLU, Miami Beach has
a history of arresting gay men for simply looking “too gay.”
“Gay men have been reportedly
targeted by Miami Beach police near Flamingo Park for decades.
Often, police target gay men walking near Flamingo Park for nothing
more than looking 'too gay',” Robert Rosenwald, director of the
ACLU of Florida's LGBT Advocacy Project, said.
The ACLU is demanding that the Miami
Beach Police Department institute immediate remedial action to halt
“the harassment, intimidation and arrest of gay men near Flamingo
Park and individuals who observe, document or report police
misconduct.” The ACLU also plans to sue the two arresting police
officers, Forte and Hazzi.