It was a quick and abrupt fall from grace.
Art Acevedo, the nationally known police chief who came to Miami from Houston in April, has been suspended, city officials announced Monday, virtually ending a tenure fraught with tensions and clashes with powerful local commissioners.
“Today, I suspended Police Chief Art Acevedo with the intent to terminate his employment, consistent with the City Charter,” City Manager Art Noriega said in a statement released Monday. “The relationship between the chief and the organization has become untenable and needed to be resolved promptly.”
“Relationships between employers and employees come down to fit and leadership style and unfortunately, Chief Acevedo is not the right fit for this organization,” the statement said.
Miami commissioners will hold a hearing later this week to effectively decide Acevedo’s future; three of the five members are vocal critics of the police chief.
The suspension is the latest episode of a political drama laced with references to communist Cuba and the Cold War. Acevedo enraged a trio of Cuban American commissioners after he joked that the police department was being run by a “Cuban mafia” and accused commissioners of interfering with police investigations.
Infuriated, commissioners called for public hearings in which they spent hours criticizing the police chief and scrutinizing controversies that emerged during Acevedo’s stints leading police departments in Texas and California.
Born in Havana and raised in California, Acevedo is known for his unrestrained personality and predilection for the spotlight, frequently appearing on CNN or Fox News and scuffling with politicians on social media.
He did not immediately respond to a request for comment Tuesday. In a letter sent to the city’s 1,300 police officers, Acevedo vowed to continue “the good fight” against the “political interference from City Hall that unfortunately continues to negatively impact this organization,” according to the Miami Herald.
In the message, he said it had been a “privilege” serving them.
When Acevedo was appointed by Mayor Francis Suarez (R), who bypassed the standard hiring process, he was hailed as the “Michael Jordan of police chiefs.” In the six months since, however, he has fallen out of favor for several reasons.
Among them, Acevedo fired two high-ranking officers and demoted several supervisors.
He also angered the rank and file after telling the news media that officers should get vaccinated against the coronavirus or risk being fired, and he posed for a selfie with a prominent member of the Proud Boys, whom the chief later said he did not know. The far-right group has a history of violence, and Canada has designated it a terrorist organization.
Suarez did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but he said at a news conference Tuesday afternoon that the city’s move to fire Acevedo marked “the beginning of the end of an unfortunate episode for our city.”
“While it is clear that Chief Acevedo has the qualifications and the experience to be an effective chief of police, it is also obvious that his personality and leadership style are incompatible with the structure of our city’s government.”
Suarez also noted the ongoing dispute between the chief and city commissioners, calling the situation “simply untenable and unsustainable.”
“This dynamic was unforeseeable, and while Chief Acevedo ended up not being a good fit for our city, I certainly wish him and his family the best of luck in the future,” Suarez said.
Noriega, the city manager, declined to comment on his decision.
Fernand Amandi, a Democratic pollster and lecturer on political science at the University of Miami, called Acevedo’s brief tenure “emblematic of the dysfunctional environment, banana republic-style approach to the way the city conducts its business.”
“Miami seems to conduct itself as an ungovernable city that puts the interest of its residents last and the interest of its elected officials first,” he said in an interview.
Amandi said Acevedo represented “an existential threat” to powerful commissioners who wish to maintain the status quo.
“That is why he had to go,” he added.
The president of the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association — the second-oldest Black police union in the country — lamented Acevedo’s suspension, calling it a “premature” decision.
“We are very disappointed because even though he made some mistakes, he has only been here six months. He is an outsider. He is not going to get everything right in such a short period,” Sgt. Stanley Jean-Poix told The Washington Post on Tuesday.
Jean-Poix said Acevedo was trying to enact necessary changes in the department.
“What I saw is that they wanted him out, and it didn’t matter what he said, or how much he apologized for it,” Jean-Poix added.
Acevedo’s potential termination comes weeks after he accused Commissioners Alex Diaz de la Portilla, Joe Carollo and Manolo Reyes of trying to interfere with an internal-affairs investigation and of defunding a position that would have allowed him to hire a former co-worker from Houston for a second-in-command post.