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Drama unfolds between Miami police chief and commissioners, and Broward schools safety concerns

art acevedo speaking at a podium
MATIAS J. OCNER
/
MIAMI HERALD
City of Miami's incoming police chief Art Acevedo speaks during a press conference at Miami City Hall in Coconut Grove, Florida on Monday, March 15, 2021.

“He’s just a square peg in a round hole in Miami.”

That is how City of Miami commissioner Alex De La Portilla described the city’s Police Chief Art Acevedo during a special commission meeting held on Sept. 27.

WLRN’s Danny Rivero said tensions between Acevedo and the city commission have been tense since the police chief was hired in April. Some commissioners felt the city manager and mayor bypassed them to bring in Acevedo and that the hiring process wasn’t transparent enough.

“And then [tensions between the commission and Acevedo] rapidly escalated because the chief of police was implementing many reforms he said were needed at the police department, and he was facing pushback from some members from inside the police department,” Rivero said. “And when he was addressing those reforms at a meeting a couple of weeks ago, he made a comment that it's almost like the Cuban mafia runs the City of Miami Police Department, which then angered some commissioners even more.”

During the Sept. 27 meeting, commissioners spent hours digging into the police chief’s past. The meeting included videos of the police chief from many years ago dancing in an Elvis costume that was too tight.

“Very little of what was discussed had to do with what's going on right now with the police department,.” Rivero said. “A lot of it was really attacking the character and the integrity on a personal level of the police chief.”

The commission scheduled another special meeting on Oct. 1 to continue the discussion on Acevedo.

Safety in Broward schools called into question

A public safety commission that was formed after the 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School has found that the Broward school district has a lot of work to do to prevent another mass violence event.

The Marjory Stoneman Douglas Public Safety Commission met this week in Sunrise. Members expressed concerns to interim Superintendent Vicki Cartwright this week about the time it takes for the district to implement safety-related changes.

The commission’s chair is Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri. He told Cartwright the school district had a history of delaying the implementation of safety measure recommendations made by the commission.

“This is a lack of urgency,” Gualtieri said. “This shows a culture problem, and I hope you’re going to change that culture.”

The commission was created to analyze information about mass violence in the state and to make recommendations that would prevent further incidents in schools.

Scott Travis covers education for The South Florida Sun Sentinel. He said the commission has taken issue with the district’s former superintendent, Robert Runcie, who held the position when the Parkland school shooting happened.

"They felt like he would promise to do all these things and nothing would actually get done, or they'd be done grudgingly,” Travis said. “He took a long time to start an investigation into administrators who were present the day of the shooting. And it took a year to establish hard corners or safe spaces where kids can hide out in the event of a tragedy.”

Travis said the safety commission has repeatedly told the district they should be leading the state when it comes to making schools safer and taking measures to prevent another tragedy.

Cartwright told the MSD Public Safety Commission she plans to follow through with recommendations to improve safety in a timely manner.

Andrea Perdomo is a producer for WLRN News.