10 Florida SWAT officers quit unit over ‘political climate’: report
Ten members of a police SWAT team in a South Florida city quit the unit this week, concerned about “today’s political climate” and its impact on their jobs, according to a report.
In a letter dated Tuesday, the officers in Hallandale Beach, Broward County, complained of being “minimally equipped, under-trained and often times restrained” in performing their duties, Miami FOX station WSVN-TV reported.
The officers – who were leaving the SWAT unit but not resigning from the force -- wrote that they were concerned that city officials were “placing the safety of dogs over the safety of team members.”
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The letter and resignations came as police officers across the U.S. were facing a high level of scrutiny and criticism following the May 25 death of George Floyd in police custody in Minneapolis.
Floyd’s death has led to an examination of past allegations of excessive force by police, particularly against African-Americans. Police in many areas have also faced additional scrutiny as cellphone camera images posted to social media have shown officers using force to combat rioters and looters during unrest sparked by Floyd’s death.
Critics of police departments have used the opportunity to launch a “Defund the Police” effort that has drawn support from some Democrats in Congress, including U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York and Ilhan Omar of Minnesota.
In Hallandale Beach, the officers signing the letter to police Chief Sonia Quinones write that they feel unsupported by the city’s leadership – as well as the command staff of the city’s police department.
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They write that they were displeased that top officials with the Hallandale Beach police kneeled with protesters during a Monday demonstration, WSVN reported.
“Until these conditions and sentiments are rectified and addressed,” the officers write, “we cannot safely, effectively and in good faith carry out duties in this capacity without putting ourselves and our families at this needless increased level of risk.”
Hallandale Beach City Manager Greg Chavarria responded to the SWAT officers’ letter in a statement to WSVN.
Chavarria wrote that the officers signing the letter has agreed to meet with the chief on Monday afternoon to discuss their concerns – and insisted that their departures from the SWAT unit did not pose a public safety vulnerability for residents.
“The officers who submitted their resignation from their SWAT assignment include the newly elected president of the IUPA Police Union,” Chavarria writes in part. “They specifically mention their displeasure with the Chief joining members of our community in taking a knee against racism, hatred, and intolerance earlier this week. They have incorrectly stated the gesture was in support of an elected official. This is simply not true.”
In a similar show of solidarity among police officers, nearly 60 members of an emergency response team in Buffalo, N.Y., quit the unit June 5 – although they too remained with the police department.
Those officers left that unit after two of its members were suspended without pay, accused of shoving an elderly man who fell backward and struck his head, requiring hospitalization. The incident was caught on video and sparked national outrage.
The two suspended Buffalo officers were later arrested and charged with second-degree assault in connection with the case. Further legal action is pending.