FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
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MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – The ACLU of Florida today sent the City of Miami Beach notice that the organization intends to sue the City and two police officers on behalf of Harold Strickland, a gay former Miami Beach resident who was harassed and wrongfully arrested in March 2009 after he called 911 to report that two Miami Beach police officers were beating another gay man near Flamingo Park.
"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'," said Robert Rosenwald, Director of the ACLU of Florida's LGBT Advocacy Project. "When police officers become the problem rather than the solution, the City needs to take action. Strickland fulfilled his civic duty by reporting what he recognized as police misconduct, but as a result he became the subject of verbal abuse and wrongful arrest," Rosenwald continued.
"The issue here is not just the violation of Mr. Strickland's rights as a gay man." said Ray Taseff, ACLU cooperating attorney. "All people have a clear constitutional right and a civic duty to report police misconduct. When police start arresting people for reporting police misconduct, the public's faith in law enforcement suffers."
The Notice to the City (required by State law prior to the filing of a lawsuit) alleges that the City and arresting officers Frankly Forte and Elliot Hazzi violated Strickland's rights under federal and state law. The ACLU demanded 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.
Because the officers sworn deposition testimony conflicts with the tape recording of Strickland's 911 call, Strickland's cell phone record, and the officers' own arrest affidavits – all indicating that the officers lied in their report of the incident in order to cover-up their misconduct – the ACLU letter also calls for the City to discipline officers Hazzi and Forte for their misconduct in the Strickland matter and consider referring them to the State Attorney's office for possible criminal prosecution based on their unlawful conduct. The ACLU also calls upon the City to compensate Strickland for the wrongful arrest.
Today's demand letter can be downloaded in PDF here: www.aclufl.org/STRICKLAND_Letter_to_Bower.pdf
The relevant arrest reports can be downloaded in PDF format here: www.aclufl.org/Strickland_Arrest_Report.pdf
To listen to a recording of Strickland's 911 call, click on or copy and paste this URL into your Internet browser: www.aclufl.org/STRICKLAND%20911%20TAPE.mp3