Bil Browning

Miami: ACLU files suit for unlawful arrest of gay man

Filed By Bil Browning | November 29, 2010 6:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Living
Tags: ACLU, Flamingo Park, Florida, Harold Strickland, Miami Beach

The ACLU of Florida has filed a lawsuit against the city of Miami Beach and two police officers [pdf]. The group is suing on behalf of Harold Strickland, an openly gay man who called 911 to report two police officers beating and kicking a map_south_florida.gifsuspect who was already handcuffed and laying on the ground near a public park. Strickland was arrested in retaliation by officers trying to cover up the police brutality.

"For years the ACLU has received reports that Miami Beach police have targeted gay men near Flamingo Park for nothing more than being gay," said Shelbi Day, an attorney with the ACLU of Florida's LGBT Advocacy Project. "When the police become the problem rather than part of the solution, the entire community suffers. It is time for the City to end the discriminatory policies and practices of its police force."

The complaint alleges that the City and arresting officers, Frankly Forte and Elliot Hazzi, violated Strickland's rights under federal and state law. Specifically, the complaint seeks damages for violation of Strickland's First and Fourth Amendment rights and false arrest. The evidence, including the officers' sworn deposition testimony, the tape recording of Strickland's 911 call [mp3], Strickland's cell phone record, and the officers' own arrest affidavits [pdf], indicates that the officers lied in their report of the incident in order to cover-up their misconduct. Strickland was charged with "loitering and prowling."

Strickland was arrested in March of 2009. The two officers were assigned to desk duty pending the results of an internal investigation, but even after all this time, the investigation remains open and the officers have not been punished.

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The wheels of justice move slow. Nine months ago, the ACLU of Florida notified Miami Beach of the intent to sue.

It's kind of disheartening, especially since the victim lives in California. I hope his travel expenses don't interfere with this case. I have to wonder how many tourists are similarly harassed, but decide to simply drop the matter.

What is the allure to the police to taget males for their lifestyle? I don't understand this at all. Maybe 2 sides to the story?

However, I did hear Miami had a huge problem with police force (brute and unwarranted use), so this is probably just another problem for them to fix.

Bonnie Smith
COO/Director FXP