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Miami Gardens Police Comes Under Heat for Racial Profiling

On Dec. 11, the police chief of Miami Gardens resigned just weeks after allegations arose that his officers were stopping and searching customers at a convenience store routinely. Charges of racial profiling and civil rights abuses were supported by video surveillance footage that showed police frisking and arresting people.

Miami Gardens Police Chief Matthew Boyd, who is black, was planning on resigning in January, but he stepped down on Dec. 11, according to The Miami Herald, which published a report on the allegations two weeks earlier.

Boyd's resignations came one day after the NAACP asked the U.S. Justice Department to open a civil rights inquiry into what it said "may be the most pervasive, most pervasive, most invasive, and most unjustified pattern of police harassment in the nation."

A significant amount of the questionable police activity centered around the Quickstop convenient store whose owner had actually worked with the police on security efforts, but wound up believing that the officers were violating the basic rights of customers at his store without a warrant, and questioning and arresting people with what appeared to be little or no cause.

"Some of the store's customers were questioned hundreds of times over the past four years for minor infractions, such as trespassing and violating liquor law ordinances," reported The Miami Herald. The Quickstop's owner, Alex Saleh was disturbed by the way his customers were being treated.

In one extreme example, Earl Sampson, a man who had been stopped and questioned 258 times in the past four years, was arrested for trespassing. The 28-year-old happens to work at the Quickstop as a clerk. Others have been cited for minor violations up to three times a day, The Herald reported.

Saleh decided to set up cameras, not to protect the store from crime, but to capture actions by the police. The footage will now become the centerpiece of a federal civil rights lawsuit which is being filed by the store's owner.

Miami Gardens is the largest predominantly black city in Florida. The Herald stated that records obtained by the paper showed that nearly all of the commanders were white and Hispanic. "The city's population is about 80 percent black. The police force is 30 percent black."

According to The Herald, a state investigation into the actions of the Miami Gardens police force is ongoing.