Hours after a Miami Beach police spokeswoman assured us that they reminded all their officers to respect the rights of photographers during the controversial Memorial Day Weekend, a pair of cops tried their best to intimidate us from recording them making an arrest.
One was a Miami Beach police sergeant named Wirth, possibly Philip Wirth, who pulled out his own camera, then stuck it in our faces, calling us “professional baiters,” oblivious to the fact that he was taking the alleged bait.
The other was a Hialeah Gardens cop named Daniel Cisar, a retired New York City police detective who is likely collecting a pension as well as a salary, and who ordered us to stand behind a cop car with our cameras as numerous people were walking back and forth from the spot we were standing in.
This was not the first time cops tried to intimidate us from recording them this weekend and it probably won’t be the last considering we will be on the streets again tonight.
“They searched the car, gave the driver a citation and let them go,” photographer Michael Miller, 36, said. “The cops were polite. I heard them laughing.”
Miller said Friday night with Urban Beach Week, a festival that celebrates hip-hop culture and reggae since 2001, was pretty calm. There was a heavy police presence in bicycles, horses, cars, motorcycles and even helicopters.
When police asked Miller, of North Miami, to stop taking pictures of a traffic stop, and asked him to clear the side-walk, Miller refused.
“Just as they [police] were taking pictures of me, I was allowed to take pictures of them,” Miller said. “They were polite … but were even flashing a light on my camera.
The City of Miami Beach spends more than a million dollars every Memorial Day Weekend to bring in cops from outside agencies to work the weekend where they end up making hundreds of unlawful arrests, most that end up getting tossed out in court, including my 2009 arrest for photographing a cop who never showed up to court.
It’s pretty clear from the cops on the streets that they couldn’t care less about the general order introduced in 2011, months after several cops fired hundreds of rounds, killing an unarmed man as well as striking several bystanders before confiscating cameras from witnesses.
The shooting happened three years ago during Urban Beach Week. The event, in full swing this weekend, typically attracts tens of thousands of revelers to Miami Beach for a week of hip-hop-fueled parties — but it’s not as popular with many residents.
Civil rights leaders have long criticized police for what they say are heavy-handed tactics in dealing with the mostly black crowd. But the yearly events also have rankled some Beach residents because of the crush of outsiders clogging traffic and an increase in crime.
The shooting was the first of a handful of scandals involving Beach police over the past several years.
In another high-profile case, now-fired Officer Derick Kuilan — joyriding with a bachelorette — ran his ATV over a couple on the sand of South Beach in July 2011. Kuilan, who also opened fire during the Memorial Day weekend incident, is going on trial this week on a charge of drunken-driving resulting in serious bodily injury.
The Herisse killing — on May 30, 2011 — rocked South Florida. The shooting came as police tried to stop Herisse’s speeding four-door Hyundai as it barreled down a Collins Avenue crowded with throngs of visitors.
Miami Beach police said Herisse ignored orders to pull over, nearly hitting several officers and slamming into barricades and cars.
Video shot from a nearby apartment and later uploaded on the Internet showed Herisse’s car speeding down the congested street amid gunfire. Once the car stopped, officers from Miami Beach and Hialeah — the latter hired to help with policing the event — surrounded it with guns drawn and fired.
Three days after the shooting, Miami Beach detectives said they found a gun wrapped in cloth under the driver’s seat. But a gunshot residue test on Herisse’s hands showed he never fired a weapon.