MIAMI, FL – A handful of Miami police officers staged another protest Thursday morning, wearing white shirts with black text that read “Restore Our Benefits” on the front and “Low Pay, Low Morale” on the back.
They marched from Peacock Park in Coconut Grove to Miami City Hall.
Police union representatives from other districts were also in attendance.
Once the officers reached City Hall, there was a spirited exchange between Mayor Tomas Regalado and Javier Ortiz, the president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police.
It ended with both tentatively agreeing to sit down at the negotiating table next week.
For years the police union has been demanding better pay and benefits. Now that the city is experiencing a budget surplus, union representatives want money redirected to benefits that were slashed or reduced in 2010.
The mayor claims his administration did present a contract that the protesting officers rejected. Union bosses said that offer didn’t work because it included the elimination of retiree health care and cuts to vacation time.
A similar protest was staged last month when officers stormed a City Hall meeting.
After officers began shouting their complaints at commissioners, the chief of police issued a new directive — officers would have to check their guns at the door unless assigned to City Hall or handling a call.
Thursday morning, “rules of decorum” were posted on the commission chambers’ glass walls.
This time the group sat quietly. There is no agenda item related to their concerns.
They also wore arm bands that read, “Unarmed Police Officer.”
Protest leaders do believe the directive to prevent them from bringing their department-issued guns into the public meeting is a violation of their civil rights and are now contemplating a lawsuit against the city and police command staff who carried out the chief’s new rule.
They also told Local 10 they think the chief and the mayor made a “big deal” out of last month’s meeting and this gun issue in order to divert media attention away from the benefits debate.
Lt. Dan Kerr, vice president for the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, believes Thursday morning’s demonstration was a success. He said another one is planned for sometime this summer.