A Miami City police officer violated federal law when he handcuffed without proper reason, and the police department needs new rules to detain suspects, according to the city’s independent oversight board.
In April this year, Miami Police Department (MPD), Sergeant Mario Menegazzo questioned a doctor and local activist from the University of Miami, Armen Henderson, in front of his house and handcuffed him. Henderson was loading supplies into his van in anticipation of conducting COVID-19 tests on the homeless as part of his work with the advocacy group Dream Defenders.
At last night’s meeting, members of the Civil Investigation Council (CIP) determined that Sergeant Henderson should not have been handcuffed.
“He didn’t articulate any reason why he handcuffed him. Once you articulate the suspicion of stopping someone, you should articulate why you handcuff him before you do,” said Cristina Beamud, director of the CIP.
According to case law cited by the Chamber, according to the fourth amendment to the american constitution, when a police officer detains someone, the scope of detention must be justified by the facts of the situation. Fourth Amendment protects citizens from unreasonable search and seizure. CIP members argued that Henderson’s behavior in the video was neither aggressive nor worrying, so it was unreasonable to keep him handcuffed without explaining why.
The incident happened on April 10. Menegazzo confronted Henderson and asked if he lived at the address, explaining that he had received reports of illegal dumping in the area and that he was suspected of some rubbish at Henderson’s feet. Menegazzo did not carry a body camera, but the interaction was affected by Henderson’s home security system. After a short conversation, Menegazzo started shouting into Henderson’s face without a mask, pointed a finger at him and finally handcuffed the doctor. Later, Henderson’s wife came out of the house and cleared things up, showing Menegazza her husband’s ID card.
A video of the interaction reached national headlines at a time of greater control of police behavior, and an investigation by the MPD Interior Ministry revealed that Menegazzo violated procedures by not calling dispatchers and not wearing a mask during a pandemic. Internal investigators also filed a complaint for rudeness against Menegazza for yelling at Henderson and pointing a finger at his face. He was received a written reprimand for misdemeanors.
The fourth point in the complaint against Menegazza claimed that Henderson was handcuffed incorrectly for no reason. The MPD exempted him on that point, saying that the sergeant had the right to handcuff the suspect on suspicion of a crime. The CIP did not agree.
The IA justified Menegazz’s binding of Henderson on the basis of rules for enforcing what is called a Terry stop, also known as stop and frisk. Under Terry’s Stop Guidelines, police can stop and investigate someone suspected of being involved in criminal activities, according to Federal Law Enforcement Training Center.
But Beamud and other CIP members argued that nowhere in the Terry Stop rules does it state when it is okay to handcuff a person and what actions should be taken in doing so.
“[IA] he applied the Terry-stop reasoning, saying you could handcuff someone arbitrarily. Clearly, that is not true, ”Beamud said.
Rodney Jacobs, assistant director of the CIP, says so New Times there are no orders or departmental guidelines stating when a Miami police officer should handcuff someone during Terry’s stoppage, so it’s hard to determine if officers should know exactly what to do.
“There are no rules in department orders about what to do in that situation. The missing part is if he knew what to do in that situation,” Jacobs says.
After reviewing the video several times, panel members commented on how quickly Menegazzo escalated the situation, despite Henderson’s attempts to escape or harm a police officer.
“My first question was that the handcuffs didn’t seem justified in any way. The handcuffs didn’t seem right to me,” said commission member Minca Brantley.
Panel members also agreed that it seemed unlikely that Menegazzo had a reasonable suspicion that Henderson was dumping illegally because he put things in his car in broad daylight instead of throwing them out, and because there were only a few pieces of debris on the ground. , including a broom.
“It’s not an illegal procrastination,” Chairman Eileen Damaso said. “I don’t know what the cop was thinking.”
The panel concluded that Menegazzo violated proper handcuffing procedures on Henderson without sufficient justification and that MPD policies did not adequately describe the handcuffing procedure during Terry’s arrest.
The commission does not have the power to actually discipline police officers or create new department orders, but it sends its recommendations to MPD chief Jorge Colina. Panel members said they would recommend that the police department maintain allegations of improper handling of Menegazz for handcuffing Henderson and create new orders that better explain Terry’s stations. They also want every police officer who communicates with the public to wear a body camera when they do so.
Says Henderson, who attended the meeting and shared his story of interaction New Times hopes the MPD takes the CIP recommendations seriously, rather than following them.
“I hope the boss will do the right thing and listen to the CIP, but I don’t think he will, which is unfortunate given the moment we are in,” Henderson says.