In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter protests that followed, one might think that police might want to, you know, chill out with the police brutality. Yet, it seems like every day we hear news of cops continuing to use excessive force, which is why these protests have come at a pivotal moment in the United States.
Case in point, this week a Miami cop went viral over footage in which he can clearly be seen on camera hitting a Black woman in the face, and the officer has since been “relieved of duty” pending an internal investigation.
The incident took place late Tuesday at the Miami International Airport when the 21-year-old woman in question had become irate over missing an American Airlines flight. She then began taunting the officer, who was also Black, for trying to remove her from the terminal.
“You acting like you white when you really Black,” says the woman in the video, who was not wearing a mask, as she got in the officer’s face. “What you gonna do?” In response, the officer struck the woman in the face—knocking her to the ground, where a scuffle quickly ensued as the other officers on the scene quickly rushed in to handcuff her.
The video, which was filmed off a computer or TV screen, was later posted to Instagram by documentary film director and activist Billy Corben.
“She headbutted me,” claimed the officer, who was identified by the Miami Herald as Antonio Clemente Rodriguez, a Black officer of Puerto Rican heritage, who is stationed at the airport—despite clear video evidence to the contrary.
Miami-Dade Police Director Alfredo Ramirez expressed his “shock and anger” over the video in a series of tweets on Wednesday evening.
“I’ve immediately initiated an investigation and ordered that the involved officers be relieved of duty,” Ramirez wrote. “Actions such as these undermine the hard work that we have invested in our community and causes my heart to break for our community and for the vast majority of our officers who dedicate their lives to serving our County.”
I am shocked and angered by a body cam video that i just saw involving one of our officers. I’ve immediately initiated an investigation and ordered that the involved officers be relieved of duty. Actions such as these undermine the hard work that we have invested in (1 of 3)...— Alfredo "Freddy" Ramirez III (@MDPD_Director) July 2, 2020
I have also just spoken to our State Attorney @KathyFndzRundle and asked that her office immediately become involved in the investigation. (3 of 3)— Alfredo "Freddy" Ramirez III (@MDPD_Director) July 2, 2020
Ramirez added that he had since spoken to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle and requested that her office “immediately become involved in the investigation.”
In a statement released Thursday morning, Fernandez Rundle said her public-corruption unit had already begun gathering evidence, including body-camera videos. “Like so many in our community, I am angered when I see abusive or improper conduct by a police officer,” Fernandez Rundle said added.
Meanwhile, Steadman Stahl, president of the Miami-Dade Police Benevolent Association, is defending Rodriguez’s use of force, calling the open-hand slap a police technique referred to as a “diversionary strike.”
“Clearly she was the aggressor,” said Stahl. “She was being asked to leave. She’s being belligerent and she pushes her face right into his face.”