The Miami Beach Police Department this week announced that it will temporarily suspend enforcement of a recently enacted law that has been used by officers to arrest bystanders filming police making arrests, The Miami Herald reported Friday. The decision came after a series of controversial arrests under the law, which has only been used to detain Black men and women since it was passed by the City Commission in June.
The law, Ordinance 70-8, makes it illegal for a person who’s been issued a warning to “approach or remain within twenty (20) feet of a law enforcement officer engaged in the lawful performance of any legal duty” if they intend to “harass” or “impede” the officer’s ability to perform or “provoke a physical response” from the officer.
However, while initially passed in an attempt to protect police during large demonstrations and protests, critics say there is mounting evidence that it has predominantly been utilized by officers to deter civilians from filming them during public arrests.
“At the directive of the Police Chief [Richard Clements], MBPD temporarily suspended the enforcement of CMB Ordinance 70-8 until all Miami Beach officers receive additional, in-person training on the nuances of the ordinance. As a result, there have been no arrests pursuant to this ordinance since July 26,” Miami Beach Police Department spokesperson Ernesto Rodriguez wrote in a statement to the Herald.
The announcement was handed down just hours after the Herald published a report on the arrest of Mariyah Maple, a Black woman who was visiting family in the area when she was pepper sprayed and detained after she allegedly “refused officers commands” to “back up” on July 25, according to the arrest report.
However, video footage of the incident shows Maple standing on the sidewalk of the 600 block of Collins Avenue filming an arrest with her cell phone when Sgt. Vincent Stella orders her to step back. Stella then picks up his bike with both hands, holding it in front of his body, then walks towards Maple and swings the back tire of the bike and hitting Maple. Less than three-seconds later he pulls a canister from his pocket and pepper sprays Maples, who is forced to turn and run away screaming.
A few minutes later, Maples was standing down the street from where the incident occurred when she was spotted by an officer while her family helped her rinse her eyes out. She was then handcuffed and charged under 70-8.
According to the Herald, all 13 people charged under the law thus far are Black men and women, most of whom will still face criminal charges despite the suspension of the ordinance. The Herald also said it was the third time this month that video footage of an arrest has contradicted the department’s official report for people charged under the ordinance.
The ordinance was first thrust into the national spotlight when security and body camera footage showed the brutal arrest of Khalid Vaughn, who was in a hotel lobby filming officers arresting a man accused of hitting an officer while driving an electric scooter.
As previously reported by Law&Crime, footage appeared to show Officer Robert Sabater tackling the 28-year-old Vaughn into a concrete pillar as the civilian was following a different officer’s orders to back up.
According to Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, after Vaughn was tackled, Officer David Rivas hit him with “a series of punches in the back rib cage area.” Vaughn was then arrested on charges of resisting an officer and interfering with law enforcement under 70-8. Rundle’s office dropped the charges against Vaughn the same day he was arrested after viewing footage of the arrest and five of the officers involved in the arrests were fired and charged with battery.
[image via YouTube screengrab]
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