The City of Miami Beach paid Harold Strickland a $75,000 settlement Monday, the result of a lawsuit Strickland filed for a wrongful arrest in 2009.
According to the ACLU of Florida, which represented Strickland, a gay tourist and former resident of Miami Beach:
“For years, the ACLU has received reports about two systemic problems with the Miami Beach police: the harassment of gay men in and around Flamingo Park, and the retaliation against persons reporting police misconduct,” said ACLU of Florida LGBT Staff Attorney Shelbi Day. “We are hopeful that this settlement marks a turning point for the City of Miami Beach in seriously addressing these chronic problems.”
The ACLU release adds that in March 2009 Strickland “saw two men – undercover Miami Beach police officers Frankly Forte and Eliut Hazzi – chase, tackle, and beat a young gay Hispanic man in a parking lot next to Flamingo Park. Strickland hung up with his sister and called 911 to report the attack.”
The officers then approached Strickland, “arrested him on charges of loitering and prowling and claimed he was trying to break into cars – a claim refuted by Strickland’s 911 call.”
The ACLU release also says the officers hurled anti-gay epithets at a handcuffed Strickland and suggested that he could be made to “disappear.”
Strickland filed the lawsuit against the city and Forte and Hazzi on Nov. 29, 2010. The final settlement agreement states that the City of Miami Beach agrees to pay Strickland $75,000, while the city accepts no liability. It also states that the Miami Beach Police Department
- agrees to add a quick link for filing complaints online,
- will implement new training language,
- will implement scenario-based training to distinguish between lawful and unlawful activity in a city park,
- will include a series of measures on annual mandatory training regarding prohibited profiling for police officers.
The Miami Herald reports that Gene Gibbons, union attorney for the two officers, said they are being “railroaded” by the city, “which sent them to Flamingo Park to address neighbors’ complaints about public sex.”
Gibbons also told the Herald that the officers did not use anti-gay epithets with Strickland or unnecessary force with the man they were pursuing.
The Herald adds that the settlement agreement reminds police officers that “it is not a violation of law to solicit unpaid consensual sexual acts between adults regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity or expression so long as the consensual sexual act does not occur in public.”
The Miami Beach Police Department fired officers Forte and Hazzi last week.