Miami Beach

‘Give cops back their bullets, remove their body cams’ says Miami Beach commissioner

mocner@miamiherald.com

Kristen Rosen Gonzalez, a Miami Beach commissioner and congressional candidate, reacted to this weekend’s shooting in South Beach by blasting the city’s police chief in a strongly worded email obtained by the Miami Herald.

Just before 7 a.m. Tuesday, Rosen Gonzalez fired off an email to City Manager Jimmy Morales in which she questioned Police Chief Dan Oates’ leadership, suggested the city stop its body camera program and “give the cops back their bullets.”

The full text of the email:

Jimmy,

Did you ever stop to think that maybe, the Chief is failing at leading his troops?

We need to give the cops back their bullets, remove their body cams, give them their dignity, and let them work all the off hours stuff they want.

Maybe then they will start policing the city again.

What do you think about this?

Chief Oates is a highly educated and gentile guy. He should be the Chief in Palm Beach. Not Miami Beach.

(She later told the Herald she meant to type “genteel.”)

Rosen Gonzalez, a first-term city commissioner and Democrat, is running for the 27th Congressional District. She announced her candidacy before Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen announced her intention to retire at the end of her term.

In an interview Thursday, she told the Herald she’d finally said what she had been thinking for a long time.

“I don’t think our officers are bad guys,” she said. “I just think their morale is low right now. I don’t think they believe in their chief.”

She said she doesn’t believe she has support to remove Oates as chief, but she questioned his leadership.

“Our chief is a very nice guy, but maybe this isn’t a great fit for him,” she said.

Rosen Gonzalez, who is a teacher at Miami-Dade College, said if she had to wear a body camera in the classroom, she would be a less effective teacher.

If I had to wear a body cam in the classroom where I was teaching, I would feel the indignity of it.

Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez

City Manager Jimmy Morales fired back a response, telling Rosen Gonzalez that the police department endured several controversies under past leadership, and that he does not want reverse policies that would lead to a regression in the department.

“I completely disagree. May I remind you that under prior leadership, this department had officers drinking on the job, running over tourists on the beach with ATV’s, a hail of bullets that hit innocent bystanders on Memorial Day, senior leadership that sent racist and sexist emails, and the list goes on,” Morales wrote. “I am not going to take this department backwards.”

Morales addressed the body camera comments, saying officers should “embrace the accountability and transparency that body cameras bring.”

He also commented on the police being armed with bullets by referencing the weekend’s shooting. Following a fatal shooting during an argument over a parking space in South Beach, Miami Beach police shot and killed one of four people in the vehicle that the shooting suspect rode in. The suspect was arrested and charged.

“And BTW, they have their bullets,” Morales wrote. “They shot a bad guy to death on Sunday night. They captured every single one of the perpetrators in the two shootings over the weekend. I saw a lot of cops working hard this weekend in record heat conditions. I think most cops would resent the notion that they are not policing.”

In a statement Thursday, Oates said the criticism comes with the territory.

“To be a police chief is to occasionally take criticism from many quarters. It comes with the job,” he said. “I always try to learn what I can from criticism and move forward.”

Video captured by a bystander show the moments after a police-involved shooting on Miami Beach left one man dead during Memorial Day Weekend.

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