Miami cops must check guns at the door at City Hall following protest

 
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ngreen@miamiherald.com

Miami police officers will have to check their guns at the door the next time they attend a city commission meeting.

A new administrative rule prohibits officers from carrying firearms into City Hall while the commission is in session — unless the officer is assigned to City Hall or is handling a call.

This latest edict comes after an unruly protest last month where dozens of Miami police union members stormed the chambers, interrupting a commission meeting because of what they described as unfair cuts to their benefits.

Mayor Tomás Regalado and Police Chief Manuel Orosa said city employees and people who attended the meeting were concerned that the boisterous officers were armed.

In a department-wide email, Orosa called the demonstrators “a mob” that had placed city staffers “in fear for their safety.”

The chief said if it happens again, officers could be arrested and prosecuted.

Orosa said he instituted the no-gun policy because officers were entering City Hall with firearms for no apparent reason. He said the rule only applies during public meetings, whether its the board of commissioners or committees.

“The demonstration opened everybody’s eyes into the potential for security concerns in City Hall,” said Orosa, who did not cite any specific concerns.

Regalado said he does not believe officers would ever endanger the commission or the public who attend the meetings by brandishing their weapons.

“These are professional people,” he said.

Nevertheless, he said he backs Orosa, saying it is a policy that should have been enacted years ago.

“It’s no less than what the federal court does, what federal buildings do,” said Regalado. “When you’re not on duty, you leave your weapon in a locker or somewhere else. There’s no conspiracy here.”

The head of the police union said he is unaware of other local municipalities restricting their officers’ ability to carry firearms into official meetings.

“We are very disappointed that the police administration would trust us with a firearm in a citizens home, but they won’t trust us with one in City Hall,” said Javier Ortiz, president of the Fraternal Order of Police, who organized last month’s protest.

Ortiz said another protest is planned outside City Hall on March 27, the date of the next commission meeting. He said there is a good chance officers will make their voices heard inside the commission chambers, just as they did in February.

“There was no one in harms way,” said Ortiz of the last protest. “Yes, some of [the officers] did get emotional, but restricting our firearms will not make us stop expressing our voice.”

Miami Herald staff writer Charles Rabin contributed to this report.

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