BY STEVE ROTHAUS, srothaus@MiamiHerald.com
Miami Beach Assistant Police Chief Ray Martinez met with members of the city's GLBT Business Enhancement Committee on Tuesday to discuss the firing of two officers accused of beating and falsely arresting a gay tourist in 2009.
Fired officers Frankly Forte and Eliut Hazzi "are contesting their terminations," Martinez told committee members including chairman Dan Spring, Michael Bath of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, photographer Dale Stine, events promoter Edison Farrow, Jorge Richa of the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce and police department liaison Detective Juan Sanchez.
Forte and Hazzi were fired more than a year after former South Beach resident Harold Strickland said he witnessed them beating another gay man, Oscar Daniel Mendoza, near Flamingo Park in March 2009.
Not knowing Strickland had called 911 on his cellphone to report the beating, Forte and Hazzi then accused him of loitering and arrested him.
Strickland told a 911 dispatcher that the officers were kicking Mendoza in the head like “a football” when Forte and Hazzi stopped him and the line went dead.
Strickland filed a lawsuit, which the city settled for $75,000.
The officers, fired Aug. 1, are being represented by the city's police union and could demand the case be taken to arbitration.
An arbitration decision would be binding, Martinez told the committee, and the city could end up having to rehire Forte and Hazzi.
That's unlikely, he said.
"We have a very good case," he said. "We would not have pushed forward if we had not."
Miami Beach Mayor Matti Herrera Bower and City Manager Jorge Gonzalez also attended Tuesday's 1 p.m. monthly meeting, which began after committee member Chip Arndt reminded colleagues that "members of the press are present."
Click photo to view more pictures from the meeting. Photos by STEVE ROTHAUS/ Miami Herald Staff.