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Miami Beach PD Blocks Enforcement Of New Law Miami Beach Cops Abused To Arrest People For Filming Them

DATE POSTED:September 2, 2021

In May, the Miami Beach city council passed an ordinance that basically made it illegal to come within 20 feet of cops.

The Ordinance prohibits any person, after receiving a warning from a law enforcement officer not to do so, to approach or remain within twenty (20) feet of a law enforcement officer engaged in the lawful performance of any legal duty with the intent to: (1) interrupt, disrupt, hinder, impede or interfere with a law enforcement officer's ability to perform such duty; or (2) provoke a physical response from a law enforcement officer; or (3) directly or indirectly harass a law enforcement officer.

This law was supposedly needed because occasionally law enforcement is a bit more difficult to perform, like during occasions when there are more people in Miami Beach than usual. But there was some concern this meant Miami Beach officers would be able to arrest people for filming them. That point was raised by one city commissioner during the vote on the ordinance and quickly dismissed by the city attorney.

[Commissioner David] Richardson to Rafael Paz, the acting city attorney: “Is there anything in this provision ordinance that would prohibit someone from videotaping? Because I know that with George Floyd there were some questions about bystanders videotaping the officers, and I know that’s been a topic of conversation over the last year on whether or not that’s permissible activity, so is there anything in this that would prohibit it? Would that be considered harassment?”

Paz: “Commissioner that would not be considered harassing and videoing of our law enforcement officers is legal and permissible under the law.”

LOL. Well, I guess Miami Beach officers have agreed to disagree with the city attorney's interpretation.

Thirteen people have been arrested under the ordinance, according to arrest data provided by police. At least eight of those arrests were of people who’d been using their phones to record officers. All 13 were young Black men or women. Most of them still face a potential criminal trial, including [Mariyah] Maple.

Here's what happened to Maple:

[A] previously unreported video [showed] how police pepper sprayed a 27-year-old New York tourist, Mariyah Maple, after she had been peacefully recording a traffic stop in the 600 block of Collins Avenue on July 25.

Maple, who was later charged under the ordinance, can be seen recording as a police sergeant asked her to leave and, before she could respond, whipped his bicycle around like a shield, struck her hand and immediately deployed pepper spray. Sgt. Vincent Stella has been assigned to administrative duty while the department reviews the incident.

As the Miami Herald notes, this is at least the third time in the past few weeks that recordings of incidents resulting in the enforcement of this new law contradict officers' claims and arrest reports. And two arrests that occurred within hours of each other made national news. Miami Beach officers arrested New York resident Khalid Vaughn as he filmed them beating a handcuffed arrestee. His friend, Sharif Cobb, was arrested shortly after as he filmed officers preparing to transport Vaughn to jail.

Fortunately, those charges have been dropped by the State Attorney's office. These charges, however, still remain active:

In the aftermath, five Miami Beach police officers wound up charged with misdemeanor battery after prosecutors said they used excessive force in making arrests.

Since the cops can't seem to get the law right, the law is being taken away from them.

The department announced that it had paused enforcement of the law on Thursday, the same day the Miami Herald reported on an additional incident involving the ordinance in which police pepper sprayed and arrested a woman from New York who had been filming a traffic stop in South Beach in late July. A spokesman said the directive was actually issued late last month, after a series of troubling arrests.

On July 26, Chief Richard Clements “verbally” ordered his deputy chief to suspend the enforcement of the ordinance, according to department spokesman Officer Ernesto Rodriguez.

Officers will now undergo additional training on the "nuances of the ordinance." But there's no nuance to be had. The city attorney says it's legal to film police officers. Police officers don't want to be filmed. So they arrested people using this new law until someone made them stop. That's why vague laws that expand police power are so dangerous. If a law can be read as a new way to abuse people and infringe on their rights and protections, it will be.