Miami police cruiser’s Black History Month design draws criticism
The Miami Police Department and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez have received criticism after unveiling a cruiser this week with Africa-themed images to kick off Black History Month.
The red, green, yellow and blue vehicle includes Black fists raised in protest, as well as an outline of Africa. Officer Kiara Delva, a department spokesperson, said at the unveiling that the design is meant to honor the history and legacy of the Black police precinct and the officers who served there.
The unveiling took place Thursday at the Black Police Precinct and Courthouse Museum, which at one time served as a separate police station and municipal court for Black police officers, judges and defendants — until its closure in 1963.
Miami Police Chief Manuel Morales spoke at the ceremony, honoring the first Black men to join the department in 1944 — officers Clyde Lee, Moody Hall, Edward Kimball, John Milledge and Ralph White.
“They stood against all odds, not only against those in the community who wished to stop them, but members from their own department that wished to stand in their way,” he said.
Suarez, who was also at the event, called it a “beautiful collaboration to commemorate Black history.”
However, the unveiling led to backlash on social media, with some Black leaders expressing their disdain.
Sherrilyn Ifill, former president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, took to Twitter, writing, “THIS CANNOT BE!”
MSNBC legal analyst Charles F. Coleman Jr. tweeted that “this type of tone deaf performative action is what provokes a ‘war on wokeness’ when we are made to accept the unacceptable.”
Washington Post columnist Karen Attiah tweeted, “I AM WHEEZING.”
CBS News reached to Suarez’s office and Miami police for comment, but did not immediately hear back. Miami police held a news conference Friday in which Morales, joined by leaders of the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association (MCPBA) — an organization for the city’s Black officers — attempted to explain the reasoning behind the move.
Sgt. Stanley Jean-Poix, MCPBA president, said his organization paid for the design, adding that “no tax dollars were spent on it.”
“This was something for us to honor everyone,” said Miami police Lt. Ramon Carr, vice president of the MCPBA. “This had nothing to do with being disrespectful, being disgraceful. This was something, like a source of pride for us, and it still is. We know that people are going to have their opinion about whatever, but this is something that ourselves and the chief was able to work on.”
Morales reiterated in the news conference that “this is our way of honoring, specifically, the first five officers, that in 1944, suffered injustice, prejudice, resistance and still answered the call, were able to step across that line.”
Miami police were not the only agency to roll out a cruiser to commemorate Black History Month. The Columbus Police Department in Ohio also released a design to “celebrate the achievements of African Americans & recognize their roles in our history.”