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ACLU settles suit against City of Miami Beach in wrongful arrest of gay man

ACLU settles suit against City of Miami Beach in wrongful arrest of gay man

The ACLU of Florida on Monday reached a settlement in a lawsuit against the City of Miami Beach and two Miami Beach police officers on behalf of Harold Strickland, a gay former Miami Beach resident wrongfully arrested in March 2009 in retaliation for calling 911 to report that officers were beating and kicking a man who lay handcuffed on the ground.

Miami Herald
Harold Strickland

Last week, the city announced it was firing officers Frankly Forte and Eliut Hazzi, who had been under investigation by police Internal Affairs and prosecutors since The Miami Herald reported in February 2010 on the incident.

Strickland, a former Beach resident who moved to Los Angeles, said that about 1 a.m. on March 13, 2009, he was visiting South Florida and wanted to see his old neighborhood. He walked past Flamingo Park near 14th Street and Michigan Avenue and said he saw two guys beating a man and kicking his head like “a football.”

Strickland called 911, realizing as he described the beating that the two assailants — with guns, walkie-talkies and handcuffs — were undercover police officers. For nearly five minutes, Strickland spoke with a 911 dispatcher until he said the two men were “coming after me!” The men, later identified as Forte and Hazzi, approached Strickland and can be heard on the recording asking him why he is there, where he lives and if he has identification. Then the line went dead.

Strickland, who according to state attorney’s office documents said the two officers repeatedly called him “fag and faggot,” was arrested on charges of loitering and prowling.

The settlement requires the City of Miami Beach to pay Strickland $75,000 which includes attorneys’ fees, as well as enact new policies regarding the reporting of police misconduct.

Among the changes mandated by the settlement is the inclusion of new training language for Miami Beach police officers, including the following: “Improperly prohibiting or punishing a citizen from observing, documenting, or reporting a police officer’s conduct violates the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”

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