South Miami

South Miami residents plan police appreciation day for July 28

Residents and Community Redevelopment Agency members pose with South Miami Police Sgt. Henry Guzman, second from left, Officer Melvris Lopez, Chief Rene Landa, Officer Marcus Kinlaw, center, Levy Kelly and James McCants, far right, both of the CRA.
Residents and Community Redevelopment Agency members pose with South Miami Police Sgt. Henry Guzman, second from left, Officer Melvris Lopez, Chief Rene Landa, Officer Marcus Kinlaw, center, Levy Kelly and James McCants, far right, both of the CRA. Photo provided to the Miami Herald

Despite several incidents that could have triggered chaos in the streets of South Miami, city residents continue to work together, peacefully, with its police department.

Now, local clergy, the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) district, and the Community Advisory Committee (CAA) are teaming to show appreciation for the South Miami Police.

Everyone is invited to meet and greet local law enforcement while enjoying barbecue and refreshments from 1:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Gibson-Bethel Community Center, 5800 SW 66th St.

“We have been involved with the police department and the chief … because of his willingness to be involved,” said James McCants, CRA community outreach coordinator. “This is the first time we have actually planned something of this magnitude to show appreciation. With what is going on all over the nation … we look at Miami and the county and hear of the things going on in the county … the problems that everybody else is dealing with. We don’t exactly have that here. We have a police chief and staff that are really helpful to the community … community police officers that actually go above and beyond the call of duty to actually social services.”

McCants said he sees officers come to his office for job listings and to assist community members. He said that Police Chief Rene Landa makes himself “available for any and everybody” by always picking up the phone.

“We have police that know some of the residents first hand and actually talk to the people in the community to help things from getting worse,” McCants said. “We have good and bad people in every bunch. But the majority of this force right here, I know personally, and I know them to be good family people, hard-working people that just want to try to make a difference."

For a second summer, the police department is participating in the Cops and Students Talking (CAST) program at the community center. There, SMPD officers work to forge friendships with the area’s youth while teaching them about the people behind the badges and the many tasks of various departments. Landa, hired in 2014, has worked with City Manager Steven Alexander to ignite a community policing effort.

“It’s really nice of them to express support for our police department and we have been trying to make a big change in the way we do policing,” Alexander said. “In more of a community policing way where we are all working toward the same goal, rather than especially a police or military state, where we are looking to crack heads. So it’s nice that they are sort of recognizing our efforts and responding to it that way.”

In November Officer Aryo Rezaie shot an unarmed Michael Gavins at a Coral Gables gas station. Gavins was charged with intent to sell marijuana and resisting an officer, but the charges were later dropped. Rezaie claimed that after he made the stop, Gavins refused his commands and began walking toward him, before Rezaie discharged his weapon. Gavins survived the incident, despite the gunshot wound to his back. On July 20, the state attorney’s office ruled that Rezaie was “legally justified” in shooting Gavins.

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