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Gay tourist: Miami Beach cops made up charges, arrested him after he reported to 911 that they beat a man

BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com

The ACLU of Florida says two Miami Beach police officers yelled epithets at a gay tourist and falsely accused him of trying to break into cars after he witnessed them kicking and punching a handcuffed man at Flamingo Park.

As Officers Frankly Forte and Elliot Hazzi approached witness Harold Strickland, they didn't know he was on his cellphone reporting the beating to a Miami Beach 911 dispatcher, said Robert F. Rosenwald Jr., director of the ACLU Florida's Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender Advocacy Project.

“This is an issue that we have hoped to address for a long time. Miami Beach Police have for a long time harassed gay men around Flamingo Park without probable cause,'' Rosenwald said Wednesday.

Miami Beach police first learned of the alleged incident – which occurred last March – on Wednesday afternoon and immediately began an internal affairs investigation, spokesman Detective Juan Sanchez said.

“At this time, the department cannot comment nor is it a practice to comment on an intended issue that is going to be [the] subject of litigation by the city,'' Sanchez wrote in an e-mail to The Miami Herald.

Detective Gus Sanchez, vice president of the Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police, also said he couldn't discuss an open investigation.

Forte and Hazzi both were hired by Beach police as new officers in February 2007. They were still on duty Wednesday, Juan Sanchez said.

The incident began about 1 a.m. March 13 as Strickland, a former Beach resident now living in Los Angeles, walked past Flamingo Park near 14th Street and Michigan Avenue.

Strickland called 911 when he saw a man being beaten by two men just outside the park.

“I saw a guy running and then I saw two, what looked like undercover cops running. And they pushed this guy down on the ground, the one cop did, and the other cop came up as if he was kicking a football … and kicked the guy in the head,'' Strickland, 45, told a dispatcher during a recorded phone call to 911.

For nearly five minutes, he talked to the dispatcher, who encouraged him to get closer for more detail “if it doesn't put you in any danger.''

A few seconds later, Strickland told the dispatcher: “Now they're coming after me!''

The two men, later identified as officers Forte and Hazzi, approached Strickland and could be heard saying, “What are you doing here? Where do you live? Let's see some ID.'' A few seconds later the line went dead.

Strickland later told the ACLU that Forte and Hazzi grabbed his cellphone and disconnected the call.

“The officers then told Strickland: ‘We know what you're doing here. We're sick of all the f---ing fags in the neighborhood.' The officers pushed Strickland to the ground and tied his hands behind his back,'' Rosenwald wrote in an ACLU letter delivered Wednesday to Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower.

“While Strickland was on the ground, the officers continued to spew anti-gay epithets. They called him a ‘f---ing fag' and told him he was going to ‘get it good in jail.'''

Bower and City Manager Jorge Gonzalez also declined to comment.

Strickland called 911 at 1:06 a.m., according to dispatch records.

Forte wrote in an arrest report that 30 minutes later – at 1:36 a.m. – he saw Strickland trying to break into six cars at 14th Street and Michigan Avenue near Flamingo Park.

Strickland said he tried to tell the officers about his call to 911, but that they wouldn't listen to him. They took him to jail on a loitering-or-prowling charge. At a hearing the next day, a judge told him that he would get out of jail faster if he pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor, Rosenwald said.

Strickland agreed, left jail and called the ACLU. He later changed his plea to not guilty. The State Attorney's Office later dropped the charge.

Loitering and resisting-arrest-without-violence charges also were dropped against Oscar Mendoza, the man Strickland reported being beaten near Flamingo Park.

Miami Herald staff writer David Smiley contributed to this report.

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This does not surprise me - Beach cops are the worst! They are always harassing kids and athletes and gays. I hope they get a taste of their own medicine behind bars where they belong.

If those gays wanted to have sex they could have moved to Wilton manor. It's time to clean up the beach. Keep up the good work officers!!

I hope the "officers" are fired, sued, and run out of town. This type of violence will simply NOT be tolerated

This is Miami, land of corruption, these cops are going to be just transferred somewhere else. This article was on Yahoo! news for all the world to see. The message being given is don't visit South Beach, its dangerous and no one will protect you. But wait, wasn't the major of Miami Beach looking to increase gay tourism and even started a gay parade last year NOW THIS! I say Boycott Miami Beach and take your money elsewhere!!!!

The story says the call was disconnected when the cop gabbed the phone, and then goes on with quotes about how the cops were yelling anti-gay epithets. So was any of that actually recorded or what Mr Strickland remembers they said?

you dont have to be gay to be abused by the police , i was put in jail in miami by a cop that i would not sell a jeep to, judge cut me loose , also in coral gables a cop that later killed a business man on bird rd, he had a very old black man up against a wall shaking him down i stoped said i know him can i take him home he said move on or go to jail with him, i said motherfkr take me, he did but the old man dint go, the law today are creeps for the most part when was the last time one said good morning or how are things in our area, wake up america , check them for drugs and steriods ,

I agree that many of the cops out there think they are above the law. They go by us on the roads, speeding, tailgating and harassing law-abiding citizens. Unfortunately most of us don't challenge them because we don't want to pi$$ them off. Look what happened to that poor guy on South Beach. He was attempting to report the two cops for beating up on an innocent victim. I say round 'em all up and make them spend a weekend in jail. Bubba will teach them a good lesson when it's time for the showers.

MBPD: WORST POLICE FORCE EVER. I have personally witnessed:

--Needless quality of life arrests (just plain harassment)
--Incredible rudeness -- profanity, insults, sarcasm -- during routine traffic stops (in any normal business this would have gotten the employee fired)
--Wild overreaction to minor domestic violence call (think SWAT team-like response)
--A shocking incident in which had a friend thrown in jail for an expired (1 week) handicap sticker while PD personnel routinely abuse the system.

I have hard many more second hand stories of corruption and incompetence. This force has a very bad reputation. I;d advise tourists to stay away until they clean up their act.

I have now lived here five years and compared to the NYPD these guys are unprofessional, uneducated and uncontrolled. Too bad Mayor Bower and the other city council members are so intimidated (or bought off thanks to their lavish campaign contributions) by these bully boys.

...and "City of Miami," as well.

It's fair to recognize though that both forces have each their good (and hopefully the majority) share of impeccable and exemplary officers.

But sad cases like this one keep happening every week unfortunately because of an also significant share among them of civil-right-violating power abusers (yes, they really do believe they ARE ABOVE THE LAW) loaded with large doses of uncontrolled anger inside them, and with a free ticket to ride it on any citizen as they please, with total immunity.

Hopefully this particular case will serve to start some carefully managed internal laundry-&-cleaning process that these tax-payer-funded citizen-serving local forces have been needing for a while now.


I was involved in a brawl on South Beach, which started out with my being hit first... when MBPD responded, it turned out that some of them knew the man with whom I had been brawling... he was a bouncer at a popular club at the time... well, it turned out that I went to jail while homeboy went free... in that situation, I would've expected both of us to go in... instead, I was immediately cuffed and sat on a curb while homeboy was tended to by his buddies... I didn't incite the brawl (although I did have homeboy looking a little worse than me by the time they got there), and witnesses on the crowded intersection backed up my end... however, their names weren't taken and I was... "F" the cops... and they wonder why even the criminals are beginning to shoot back...

I remember when Miami Beach was a pretty gay friendly place. Stop spending dollars to attracu us out of state tourists and get your house in order Miami. Until then, my partner and I will not return.

I live on the beach for 30 years and my experience they dont know how to treat people, they should be go for training manners.

There are 2 sides to every story. I am gay and I am disgusted and embarrassed by how gays act in Miami. Now matter how vile they act, the rest of the community rally's around them--making the REST of us look awful and part of a small segement of the community. Now we have a movement against The Tides because its residents dared to want some serenity on Sunday as they have lunch on the terrorist. Because of this they are "anti-gay"...Their antics are disgusting.

I hope the cops keep up cleaning the street of this type of gay individual.

correction to above: Lunch on the Terrace..

To the post of "Senor":

I can't wait for you to be harassed and arrested with completely FALSE charges for no other reason than being a dirty...foreigner. Then let's hear you say "keep up the good work, officers!"

Moron.

I just made what I think will be my last visit to South Beach. The gay friendly-vibe of the area is totally gone, and now I read about these cops - and a judge who encourages an innocent person to plead guilty just to make it easier?

Perhaps Ft. Lauderdale next time. Sorry Miami, it was nice while it lasted.

hey what ever happened to the rights of the citizens who live on the beach who have to put up with the transexuals the lesbians ,the gays who do sex in that park for the last 10 years i have not be able to bring my grankids to that park on a warm summer nite ,i dont want to see men foricating in public ,and flamingo park is notorius for that kind of overt sexual and deviant behavor.. since when does civil liberties mean the deceancy has not a place in our community,we the non gay people who live here on the beach who do not have ,and or give aids to each other ,i have to worry just to touch the doors to the gay bathrooms ,i call them that because of the high volume of gays that use them..when are we the hard working people who are god fearing going to have the right to not be witness to nthe sodomites in our midst...if u want to be gay do it in the privacy of your own home ..not so my grankids have to ask why men are kissing and touching other men.. we pay the police to make our streets safe from the bad people and haveing gay sex or straight sex in public is against the law ...if you want to clean up the police dept, first clean up the discusting habits of your gay community..start wit your selvs first then cast the first stone...

jon - frankly, you're an idiot.

your judgment is breathtaking. when you make it an attack on ALL gay people, as you do so nastily, you insult the millions of good people who are gay - who have every right to kiss in public as you do with your significant - and the bad element in society of people that happen to be gay has nothing to do with the majority. You'd THINK your brain would decipher that, but obviously, it's clouded by judgment.

JOHN 3:16 WHOSOEOVER

What do you expect from the NFBP (Nazi Florida Beach Police)? And they wonder why so many people smile when they hear that a cop was killed on the job. I was taught to trust and respect the police. Boy, was I taught wrong.

I also was attacked by Miami Beach Police while on vacation there. 3 officers went nuts on me just for walking from my car to the beach. The worst thing is that they went crazy when I told them I was gay... They started saying that they know what I am doing there They said "there are no females here, what are you doing here?" ...I was like, is this a prank?! so I told them that I was gay. Then they started spinning me around, pointing tazers in my face, and humiliating me every way they could. The male officers told the female officer to put hands in my underpants and told me not to look at what she was doing... They were so hyper and sarcastic it was sick... It lasted forever!!! When I asked where does it say that I can not walk here, they pointed at a sign and said:" haha, can't you see it says no sex with animals on the sign, hahaha" Then they threw me in the car where i almost suffocated, while they were standing outside and laughing and calling me a victim... then they repositioned the cars so it was blocking mine and told me " to get the F*** out of here" and never come back". They were standing there laughing while I tried to back out without scratching their cars. They changed me with an ordinance that doesn't exist at that location... the charge was dropped but these sadists are still working for the Miami Beach Police Department, and some of them even making comments on here and have facebook accounts...
The internal affairs are not helping...
It's not a gay issue, this can happen to anyone. People have a right to walk on the street or a park if there are no signs that prohibit access. People should not be harassed by the police just because they look gay... and even if there are ordinance signs, it doesn't mean they are constitutional since they are created by small biased governments like cities who also control police and receive revenues from citations! Even though the charges get dropped, I still had to pay lots of fees, so the City of Miami Beach can continue its war against people who look gay. The mayor should be ashamed, it went downhill ever since she started her term...

What a Shame. I'm a foreigner who just bought property actually one street away from Flamingo Park. I also happen to be a Gay man and was looking forward to walking my dog in this park.

What the $%^%#@% South Beach? Wake up!

Remember that IF your US constitutional rights are violated by a police officer, the ONLY organization that should prosecute is the FBI.

False imprisonment by a police officer and physical abuse under color of authority, especially threatening and abuse to cover up a crime by an officer is punishable in federal penitentiary by no less than 15 years imprisonment.

Florida COPS are the worst and regularly violate US Constitutional rights and generally treat every person as if
1. the person is scum
2. the cops ARE the law and what they decide IS law.
3. No one has any rights unless the cops wants them to.

Make sure and report to teh FBI any violation of civil rights by and officer, especially when there are witnesses.

Human rights will always be over it at all times. Because mostly human rights had been stepped down by someone. As we all know in a fact that even these law providers are also sometime a law crosser. i mean they are the one that is also responsible in doing it in time when they are forgetting about the human rights.

WOW! Wait a second while I get my composer. There!
Does anyone really believe these stories? There I go again, I can't stop laughing.

People need to grow up and get jobs, this will keep them busy and no one will have time for this silliness!

If it was up to me, I would kill all those Involved....

Who me, luckily it isn't up to you.

What a shame that cops allegedly did this. On the other hand, there is way too much public sex happening sorry to say by the gays. Everyone has the right to be together and have respectable PDA, but public sex gay or straight is just wrong. Check into a short stay motel for G-- sake! (and that goes for straights too!)

I heard that Miami is like a foreign country and a very dangerous place. I feel sad for the cops who have to work there. They are doing their best against all odds.

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