Find a fire on social media about cops and Javier Ortiz will be there, pouring gas on it — by the gallon.
Ortiz, the head of Miami’s police union, has filled his Facebook page over the last few years with pointed memes and posts, often racially charged. He’s defended officers under fire for killing unarmed black men from Ferguson, Missouri, to Staten Island, New York, and repeatedly ripped minority groups — including the top female black cop in his own city — for actions or statements that he brands as unpatriotic or reverse racism.
Now, his latest burn: One of the world’s most famous female pop musicians — Beyoncé, who also happens to be black.
In a letter this week to police unions across the country, Ortiz said Miami’s Fraternal Order of Police will “boycott” the kickoff of the superstar’s worldwide tour at Marlins Park in April and he urged other unions to follow suit.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
The reason: Some cops, including Ortiz, view Beyoncé’s Formation video and Super Bowl performance as an anti-police message and an homage to the Black Panther counter-culture movement of the 1960s.
In the past, Miami police brass and city leaders have largely avoided clashing with Ortiz, saying he was legally protected by his union position and had a right to voice his opinion on his personal social media sites.
This time, his bomb-throwing may backfire. Mayor Tomás Regalado said he’s worried Ortiz may be staining Miami’s image — just as the city takes its latest step to ease a long history of racial tensions. Next week, the city commission is poised to vote on a federal civil rights settlement over dozens of police shootings dating back a decade.
It’s enough of a problem that the city manager is exploring a legal path to try and shut Ortiz down — or up, depending on your perspective.
“He’s like a 7-year-old who has a temper tantrum,” said Ella Moore, president of the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association, the city’s largest black police organization. “This is not helping at all, especially in today’s climate. There are so many other issues he can take a stand on, like all the shootings in the north end. But he’s busy worrying about what Beyoncé is doing?”
On Friday, Moore drafted a letter imploring city leaders “to do whatever is necessary” to stop Ortiz’s “antics.”
“All of these things, and others not mentioned here, have common denominators in that they involve African Americans that he portrays in a negative light with thinly veiled racist overtones,” wrote Moore.
Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso said his staff is working with the legal department to see what avenues can be taken to halt Ortiz’s social media blasts.
“The chief talked to him several times. He explained the speech he puts out is detrimental to us. But that hasn’t gone anywhere,” Alfonso said.
Ortiz, in an interview with the Miami Herald, blamed his latest controversy on Beyoncé. Some police and other critics believe her Super Bowl performance, which concluded with more than a dozen leather-clad dancers holding their balled fists in the air, was a tribute to the Black Panther Party — a group formed in California in 1966 in response to repeated charges of police brutality against blacks.
“It’s a shame that instead of her using her power to mend fences and build bridges, she’s [Beyoncé] burned bridges,” Ortiz said. “There are plenty of cases in which black lives are taken. But if it’s not law enforcement it’s almost acceptable. Which is disgusting.”
In his four-paragraph boycott call, Ortiz also named fallen NYPD Officer Richard Rainey, who died last week from bullet wounds inflicted by two Black Panthers in 1981 and saluted “the dozens of law enforcement officers that have been assassinated by members of the Black Panthers.”
Ortiz also rejected Moore’s charge that his posts have racist overtones.
“If people came out in white robes and started celebrating the KKK, I’d be the first union president to say it’s wrong,” he said.
The boycott Beyoncé call is just the latest shot fired by Ortiz.
Last year, he lambasted the city’s top female black police officer, who is also a Muslim, for not covering her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. On social media sites he’s called the Black Lives Matter movement racist. He referred to Tamir Rice, the toy-gun wielding 12-year-old child shot and killed by a Cleveland police officer, as a “thug.”
And earlier this month he went after an Hispanic woman who made national news after she chased down a Miami-Dade police officer she claimed was speeding. Oritz thought she was so out of line that he publicized her cellphone and work numbers and urged the public to contact her.
Ortiz isn’t alone in his criticism of Beyoncé’s latest work. Though much of the rest of the world viewed her moves as dazzling showmanship, a segment of the law enforcement took offense to what they see as not-so-hidden anti-cop sentiment.
Cops have avoided signing up for off-duty jobs at her show in Tampa the day after the Miami performance. A sheriff in Tennessee contended that shots fired outside his home might have been spurred by the singer’s Super Bowl show. Even former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani condemned the performance, saying she shouldn’t have used her platform to condemn police.
In reality, the only effect of the union vote is likely to be thinner paychecks for Miami cops who would earn more than their hourly wage and are paid for off-duty work at the stadium by the Marlins under an agreement penned when the stadium was built.
Miami Police Maj. Delrish Moss, who is not a member of the union, said Ortiz’s letter “means nothing” because the park will be patrolled even if the city has to find officers from other agencies.
Not all of Ortiz’s social media posts are negative or against blacks. He’s fought long and hard for a cancer charity for children. And he was one of the first union presidents to condemn North Charleston, South Carolina, police officer Michael Slager, charged last year with murdering Walter Scott after shooting him in the back as he was running away. He also came out in support of a museum in Miami for black cops.
Regalado, though, acknowledged the union president’s most-recent rant is different from his past acts. City commissioners are expected to vote next week to settle the federal civil rights lawsuit over police shootings that has been hanging over Miami for years.
“My personal take is we have a duty and a responsibility to protect the people that go to a public venue. If they want to boycott then we have to spend resources to protect the city,” said the mayor.
“And I’m very concerned about the image of the city. It’s going to look like Miami is boycotting, not the union. But I don’t know if we have any legal recourse. If this happened in my office I would reprimand or suspend the person. It’s taken years to get the image we have now.”