The Herald's Julie Brown has all of the details:
Earl Sampson has been stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens police 258 times in four years.
He’s been searched more than 100 times. And arrested and jailed 56 times.
Despite his long rap sheet, Sampson, 28, has never been convicted of anything more serious than possession of marijuana.
Miami Gardens police have arrested Sampson 62 times for one offense: trespassing.
Almost every citation was issued at the same place: the 207 Quickstop, a convenience store on 207th Street in Miami Gardens.
But Sampson isn’t loitering. He works as a clerk at the Quickstop.
So how can he be trespassing when he works there?
It’s a question the store’s owner, Alex Saleh, 36, has been asking for more than a year as he watched Sampson, his other employees and his customers, day after day, being stopped and frisked by Miami Gardens police. Most of them, like Sampson, are poor and black.
And, like Sampson, many of them have been cited for minor infractions, sometimes as often as three times in the same day.
Saleh was so troubled by what he saw that he decided to install video cameras in his store. Not to protect himself from criminals, because he says he has never been robbed. He installed the cameras — 15 of them — he said, to protect him and his customers from police.
Since he installed the cameras in June 2012 he has collected more than two dozen videos, some of which have been obtained by the Miami Herald. Those tapes, and Sampson’s 38-page criminal history — including charges never even pursued by prosecutors — raise some troubling questions about the conduct of the city’s police officers.
The videos show, among other things, cops stopping citizens, questioning them, aggressively searching them and arresting them for trespassing when they have permission to be on the premises; officers conducting searches of Saleh’s business without search warrants or permission; using what appears to be excessive force on subjects who are clearly not resisting arrest and filing inaccurate police reports in connection with the arrests.
“There is just no justifying this kind of behavior,’’ said Chuck Drago, a former police officer and consultant on police policy and the use of force. “Nobody can justify overstepping the constitution to fight crime.”
But Miami Gardens isn't backing down. They are somehow defending the cops:
Mayor Oliver Gilbert said the allegations made by Saleh about police misconduct are untrue. The city has reached out to him in the past and he hasn’t been cooperative, he said.
“We have repeatedly asked the owner of the store to provide information so we can investigate his allegations and he has refused,” Gilbert said.
However, public records, obtained by the Herald, show that Saleh did provide videos to the city. The state attorney also issued a subpoena for the videos last year, and Saleh and his attorney complied. It’s not clear what, if any, action was taken. The state prosecutor’s records were not yet available on Friday.
“I gave them seven videos,’’ Saleh said. “I gave them to the internal affairs commander, Gary Smith.”
Saleh added that after he filed the internal affairs complaint in August 2012, one of the officers he complained about, Michael Malone, confronted a customer who was part of the complaint.
Saleh said that after the officers started harassing him, his employees and customers, he began to doubt that police were conducting an impartial investigation, and he did stop cooperating. He said that should not have stopped them from collecting their own evidence, given the seriousness of the complaint.
“What about their own video, the videos that officers are supposed to take from their cars?” Saleh asked, contending that each time an officer turns on his lights, the vehicle’s dashboard cam is supposed to activate. Saleh said he requested copies of the police videos corresponding to the arrests he recorded and was told the videos didn’t exist.
“They didn’t exist because the officers never put their lights on,’’ Saleh said.
Police documents show that the city ended its investigation of Saleh’s internal affairs complaint earlier this year, claiming that the storekeeper did not provide sufficient evidence.
Saleh and his attorney say they have spent about $20,000 — most of which was paid to the city for public records — to obtain documents that show police and city leaders conspired to violate the civil rights of its citizens through a program of racial profiling, false arrest, illegal search and seizure and intimidation.
They intend to file a federal civil rights lawsuit early next week against the city.
This is some great investigative reporting by the Herald and not just regurgitation of government press releases. Kudos.