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Friday, October 28, 2016

You want to know the worst part?

It isn’t the incident where a police officer stopped a man at the 207 Quickstop convenience store and threw his purchases — cans of Red Bull — to the sidewalk.

It isn’t the incident where an officer stopped a woman outside that Miami Gardens store, pawed through her purse, then emptied the contents onto the ground and kicked at them.

It isn’t the dozens of times Earl Sampson — never convicted of anything more serious than possession of marijuana — has been arrested for trespassing while working as a clerk at the selfsame store.

It isn’t even that many of these crimes against conscience and Constitution were recorded on video.

No, the worst part is that police knew they were being recorded — and didn’t care. In fact, writes Miami Herald reporter Julie K. Brown, “They relished it, taunting the store’s owner by waving open beer cans and cups, taken from customers, directly in front of the cameras.” That owner, Alex Saleh, installed the 15 cameras last year, not to protect himself from robbers — he says he’s never been robbed — but to protect himself and his customers in this working-class, predominantly black South Florida enclave, from repeated police harassment.

The incidents detailed at the top, by the way, are but the tip of the garbage barge. To tell the full story of illegal searches, racial slurs, profiling, intimidation and threats Saleh, his employees and his customers say they have endured under the rubric of “zero tolerance” policing would require more space than is available here. Saleh, a Venezuelan immigrant of Palestinian heritage, and a group of his employees and customers recently filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city.

For what it’s worth, the police chief and mayor of this town are both black. One wishes that made more of a difference. But the behaviors alleged here spring from attitudes and perceptions that are structural, an abiding belief that you need not observe as many niceties in policing certain people in certain neighborhoods, don’t have to be as punctilious about legal rights and simple respect because really, who cares? As quiet as it’s kept, black people are no more impervious to being co-opted by that belief system than anyone else. We all have jobs to do. We all have to put food on the table.

  • Stuart

    Small-town cops gotta justify their jobs. Small-town politicians gotta justify the existence of their town. Jobs are hard to find these days. It’s a Republican paradise.

    • JohnnyZ77

      All it ever took for cops to run over our rights is a “drug war.” All they have to do under the unconstitutional drug war is say, “I smell Marijuana,” and they can do any damned thing they want to you, including ruining your entire life.

      • disqus_ivSI3ByGmh

        Not just the war on drugs, but also the war on terror has become an even better excuse. “Everybody” knows that “certain people” are more likely to be terrorists, so “probably cause” allows the cops license to stop and search them.

  • gravy graves

    lived in the area for 37 years … Hollywood (next door) is even more corrupt , tied with Pembroke Pines …. I collected antique muscle cars and there would jump on me when I drove them around seeing clients or on dates ….they thought I was a kid until they checked out my papers ….officer “where’s the vin number ?” Me ” officer, this car is older than you ….let me take you to school” as I opened the hood ” … was when my gal ,”Lila the lawyer lady” with me, who would give them a lesson in law ….did get 16 tickets and a trip to jail one night in Hollywood …all thrown out except the seat belt ticket ( car to early to have them ) and later ,Officer Lahiff was fired for abusing minorities ….wrote a letter to his command saying I objected …” officer Lahiff is an equal opportunity abuser ” ….stays in his jacket for ever ….South Florida is the most corrupt Gov’t on the east coast ….the Mayor of Hialeah was re elected from prison (or jail ,…I forget )

  • idamag

    Boycott Florida. Don’t buy anything that originates in that state. This is one reason I am for a strong federal government as opposed to state governments. Our government needs to step in and protect that store owner from the brown shirts.

  • Nancy Dukewich

    “The war on drugs” and “the war on terrorism” gave cops carte blanche to abuse their use of authority. Now we know what these people look like without the sheets.

  • SibyllasStuff

    Cops are no more than bullies with guns. Small town, mid sized town, big cities. I saw a short video showing the attitude of the cops harassing young men of color in New York City. Protect and serve? They protect only their own. No wonder my brother sold his house and moved away from Pembroke Pines.

  • charleo1

    Miami Gardens, is a working class neighborhood of smaller, well kept houses, manicured lawns, and home to an assortment of hard working tradesmen, small
    business owners, and low to midlevel government workers. At least that’s how
    it used to be. Today, it’s streets are overrun with gang, and gun violence, dope pushers, and their addicted customers, robbing, burglarizing, and generally
    terrorizing the still hard working and decent people who make their home there.
    But, Miami Gardens is far from unique. Over the last 35, to 40 years, thousands of
    neighborhoods like Miami Gardens, have suffered the same fate. As wages decline, and millions in the lower middle class lose their grip on their tenuous financial positions, and fall into poverty. The facts are Miami Gardens is a symptom of a
    larger problem in an America. Where the gap between rich, and poor, is widening.
    And it’s getting more difficult than ever, for people, once in poverty, to move up.
    Studies have shown, a person born into poverty today, is more likely than not, to remain in poverty, for the duration of their lives. For America, this should be a wake
    up call. As societies with ratios of wealth inequality such as we are approaching, become unstable. Crime rises, societal norms break down, and Civil Liberties
    are abused, as the cries of a public that feels under siege, demands that, “something,” be done! And, as history tells us, that something usually winds up
    abridging the Rights of the law abiding. As police, no longer primarily reactive, but
    “lean into,” the situation. Which by the very nature of doing so, become invasive,
    and heavy handed, especially with the young in poor neighborhoods. A point not
    made often enough in discussions about wealth disparity, is it’s impact on our
    personal liberties, and Constitutional Rights. Despite the assertions that our
    elected leaders do not listen to the people. They are elected, as are judges, and
    prosecutors. Get tough on crime, campaigns have resulted in longer prison terms. Laws, like, the 3 strike rule, or Florida’s, “Use a gun, and you’re done,” law. Lower thresholds for probable cause, have led to more search warrants. Followed up by, aggressive seizure laws, that have in some cases, lead to completely innocent businesses owners, being forced into bankruptcy, defending themselves, and trying to reclaim the property they need to make a living. There is no recompense for
    being charged with a crime, and found innocent. There are rewards however, for
    convictions. Prosecutors may become Mayors, and run for President, with the, “right,” record of get tough convictions. It is nothing to be proud of, that the U.S.
    now has more people incarcerated than any Country in the world. Not just as a
    percentage of our population anymore, but as a sum total. It is also no source of
    National pride, that the only place where the poor, and minorities are over represented, is in our prisons, and jails. And, if we think the job market is a tough
    place, and it is. Try looking for gainful employment with a felony on your record.
    Studies show, on poverty, opportunities, mobility, and rising crime in our inner cities.
    Having been in trouble with the law at some point, and being on parole, or probation, was the number one determiner of who is most likely to be in poverty. Above all categories. Education, early parenthood, drug addiction, racism. Nothing was more injurious, or made climbing out of poverty less likely, or returning to prison
    more likely, than a criminal record. Yes, it’s time to be concerned about the increasing militarization, and ham handed actions of our police forces. But, it’s also
    imperative we look at how we as a society deal with the conditions that are leading
    us ever nearer to becoming a society in an internal war. And the police state that