Miami Gardens’s first and only police Chief, Matthew Boyd, unexpectedly resigned on December 10, 2013, one day after the NAACP called on United States Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department to conduct a review of the Miami Gardens Police Department which Boyd resided over. While spokespeople for the Department as well as Mayor Oliver Gilbert insist that any correlation between Boyd’s resignation and the NAACP’s letter to Holder is purely coincidental, the timing is certainly noteworthy. Chief Officer Boyd was expected to announce his plans for retirement late in the month of January, 2014 – a month after he resigned.
His early resignation comes after four years of allegations of racial profiling and targeting of the African American community in Miami Gardens finally made national headlines. The President of the NAACP Florida State Conference, Adora Obi Nweze, called the resignation “a good first step”, but cautioned that “the systematic allegations of police intimidation did not happen because of just one person; they were the result of a sustained lack of oversight.” In the original letter, dated December 9, 2013, Nweze wrote:
“Mayor Oliver Gilbert contends that the allegations of police misconduct made by [Alex] Saleh are untrue and that Mr. Saleh refused to provide information for the city to investigate. However, public records support Mr. Saleh’s contention that he did provide videos to the internal affairs commander, Gary Smith, in compliance with the state attorney’s subpoena for the videos last year.
…As it happens, 76% of the population and most of its senior public officials are African Americans, but that does not excuse the Police Department’s administration of a pattern of grave misconduct. Police harassment is unlawful and morally wrong irrespective of the race of those who are ultimately responsible and accountable. Public officials of other jurisdictions surely are watching Miami Gardens, knowing that if police harassment of African Americans is acceptable in Miami Gardens, it is acceptable everywhere.”
These last lines are undoubtedly in response to observers who like to think that because the Chief of Police himself is of African descent, ultimately it means racial profiling could not have occurred. One such critic left several comments on an earlier post about Miami Gardens, taking me to task for “assuming it’s racial when the main defendants in the civil rights case, the current and former mayor, the Police Chief, and the Deputy Police Chief are all Black.” Of course, this commenter conveniently ignores the fact that “records obtained by The Herald show that nearly all the commanders – and most of the officers in the squads – are white and Hispanic. The city’s population is about 80 percent black. The police force is 30 percent black.” No matter. The fact that there were some Black officers involved is apparently supposed to legitimize racial profiling and make it appear, as the commenter suggests, that “whites are largely irrelevant in this situation.”
It may come as a surprise to some, but this false logic isn’t at all anything new to the 21st or even the 20th century. It has been in use by whites since at least as early as 1894, the year six prominent African American men were lynched in Kerrville, Tennessee. The six men were arrested after they were accused, despite no evidence to support this contention, of setting fire to a barn owned by a white man. (One of the men, Dan Hawkins, could not possibly have been responsible for burning the barn. At the time of the burning, he was in jail after being falsely accused of causing a different fire!) The police Officer who made the six arrests was a Black Officer “notorious as having made a living off trumped-up charges” against prominent Black men in the local Community. [Giddings, Paula. (2008). IDA: SWORD AMONG LIONS. Pages 322-327] The Officer must have known, however, that he was in fact sending them all to their deaths. He loaded the six men, all handcuffed, onto “an old uncovered wagon”, and “a route was chosen that took them through an isolated area” where a white mob was awaiting their arrival. When the mob saw the captives they pulled them off the train and committed the most barbaric and unspeakable atrocities against them.
Shortly after the Kerrville lynchings, it was announced that the newly-formed British Chapter of the Anti-Lynching Committee would be traveling to the United States to look into these matters. All of the sudden Southern white Official were bending over backwards and offering “explanations” as to why they weren’t able to prevent the lynchings in their states or manage to bring any of the numerous lynchers to justice. In response, Arkansas Governor William Meade Fishback attempted to justify and defend the U.S. South’s inexcusable record of lynching by pointing to the fact that the Police Officer who made the arrests in the Kerrville Case was himself a “Negro Officer”. Furthermore, he claimed that in some instances of lynching there were several Black faces among those in the crowd (although this seems rather doubtful).
Whether true or not, none of the above changes the fact that the criminal “justice” system here in the United States is one that is profoundly influenced by a false belief in white supremacy, the race of any one police officer or prison guard notwithstanding. They are all agents of a system which is designed mainly to prey on and marginalize the lives of Black and Brown people. It is this practice which continues to feed and sustain America’s ever-growing Prison Industrial Complex.