Last year, the Miami Herald uncovered a Miami Gardens, Florida, police program that resulted in hundreds of seemingly suspicionless police stops against employees and customers at one convenience store. Employees were repeatedly charged with minor infractions such as trespassing over the objection of the store’s owner, in a “zero tolerance” program that gave police “broad powers to stop and arrest people who appear to be loitering or trespassing at the participating business,” according to the Herald.
Six months later, a Fusion investigation has revealed that the police department stopped 56,922 individuals who were never arrested between 2008 and 2013 — the equivalent of more than half the city’s population — in what was described by one public defender as “New York City stop-and-frisk on steroids.” Thousands of others were arrested after the stops.
Among those stopped without arrest was an 11-year-old black boy on his way to football practice. The police report dubbed him a “suspicious person,” noting only that they had “just cause” because he was “wearing gray sweatpants, a red hoodie and black gloves.”
In a review of more than 30,000 field contact reports, Fusion found that individuals were frequently stopped by different officers within minutes of each other. Individuals as old as 99 and as young as 5 were deemed “suspicious.” “Two officers from the MGPD told Fusion that high-ranking department officials gave them orders to “bring in the numbers” by conducting stops and arrests,” according to the report. “One officer said he was ordered to stop all black males between 15 and 30 years of age.” Another officer said records were falsified to meet quotas, and that some of those individuals were “still sitting in jail.”
The store owner who initially reported the police activity, Alex Saleh, installed 15 cameras in his store not to protect himself but to document misconduct by the police. His footage spurred the investigation into the city, and Saleh has since filed a federal civil rights lawsuit.