Civil Rights Violations
& Racial Profiling
For the record, I was warned that I may become a target of harassment if I make a lot of noise about this, but I am writing this anyway.
In a sunny morning of June 10, 2008, I was taking a walk in the neighborhood. All plants were wet and shiny from the rain we had earlier, so I took a camera with me to capture the beauty. I put a big yellow straw hat tied up with a bandanna so the hat wouldn't get blown by wind. (photo) This hat thing was to protect my face from the intense sun light as I easily get sun spots on my face exposed to the sun. I simply grabbed this piece of fabric to attach the hat to my head to keep the hat on my head. It never occurred to me that my outfit was too exotic for some xenophobic Coral Gables police officers.
In retrospect, the problem started the very moment the he spotted my outfit. But the more apparent problem started when he found me taking a picture of the police motorcycle. Immediately I was treated like a terrorist/criminal/illegal/lunatic, with a series of interrogations. He ordered me to hand over my camera, just to discover that all display on the camera was in the Japanese language. This offended the police officer, not being able to read a thing, in a great deal, fueling to his xenophobia. He had me help change the language setting to English, and after that he would not let me see what he was doing with my camera. Since he ordered me not to move, I was stuck in one spot in the entire time.
I kept saying to him that he could delete only the pictures with the motorcycle but other digital images should be left alone. He kept saying he wouldn't delete the other images. Before giving me back the camera, he opened up the camera, took out my 1GB (one gigabyte) memory card, and threw it to the ground. At that time I was just coping the situation because I was frightened with this big officer with abusive attitude. I said, "Would you please not to do that?" as I picked up the memory card from the ground. I offered him to put the memory card back to the camera, but he still didn't allow me to touch my camera.
Finally he handed my camera to me, and again, scared me by shouting "Leave now!" Naturally I left the area in shock. I had walked about a block away from the site when I discovered that my 1GB (one gigabyte) memory card was totally erased. I am a visual artist and there were large number of high resolution images of my work and also my personal pictures in the memory card. All gone. For what?
Abuse of power by law enforcement officers is an ongoing national problem. I don't care how small and trivial my problem may seem. I refuse to accept police abuse of any scale and any content.
June 10, 2008: As I noticed the entire memory being erased, I turned around and found the officer gone. He plotted so I couldn’t complain to him about the memory erased. The other officer was driving away with the police vehicle, and I run as fast as I could to catch up. I told this officer that the entire memory’s gone. As I tried to get the name of the officer who did all this and took off with the motorcycle, the only thing he could tell me was “Rodriguez.” There are just too many Rodriguez in Miami, so I tried to get the first name, but the officer would say, “Just Rodriguez.” He really didn’t want to be a part of this. I tried to remember the name of this officer but I forgot it because I was very upset. I had no pen or paper. I didn’t even have a cell phone with me.
I decided not to continue taking a walk and went home to call the Coral Gables police to place a complaint against this "Rodriguez." Internal Affair of the police, Sgt Vickie Perez, took my complaint and made a report. I was basically explained about the bureaucratic process of how such a report will be processed. According to the phone record, I placed a call to the police department at 10:14 AM, and the call lasted 30 minutes. I felt very invaded and unsafe.
June 20, 2008: My "informant" (AKA friend) who had a direct contact with the police chief left a voice message on my mobile phone, telling me that the police admitted the officer's wrongdoing and would punish the officer. He also added that the chief expressed an apology. I asked this informant what exactly the punishment would be, but I never got the response to my question.
June 24, 2008: The Internal Affairs of Coral Gables police called me, expressing, as an agency, a concern over the negative connotation this report may give to a public, as well as acknowledging the other blogs and sites featuring the content of my report.
June 25, 2008: I don't feel like walking on a street as of now. I feel creepy in general.
June 26, 2008: I cannot figure out why people who had worse experiences with police than my case don't come forward. Some of them don't want to talk about it at all, and some of them complain to me about their experiences, but they don't disclose the incidents to the large number of others. It is frustrating and also annoying to see them getting lost. But somehow I understand why. By speaking out, one gets into more troubles and harassment.
I was able to retrieve the photos! I ended up in spending $27 to recover them. I had chosen the cheaper program.Not all images were retrieved. Some of them became corrupt. When the officer deleted, there were approximately 150 files that were directly deleted by him. The deleted images consists of my personal photos such as cat, plants, myself, and also work related photos such as my painting installed in a restaurant in South Beach and also high resolution of my artworks.
June 28, 2008: My advice to people: Carry your mobile phone with you at all times. If I had a phone with me, this incident could have taken a different path. It sounds silly to call the police when being harassed by a police, but you can certainly call someone to get help, I guess. But I don’t know what to do if my phone is also taken by the police.
June 29, 2008: Yes, I hear you. “It's not xenophobia,” you might say. A lot of readers have the “stupidity theory,” not that the theory is stupid, but it is the theory that the officer is stupid. I buy that “stupidity theory,” yet I cannot forget the way he first looked at me. He gave me the What-The-Hell-Is-That look. Now we have "Stupidity Theory," "Intoxication Theory," and "Xenophobic Theory."
June 30, 2008: "Jerk" is the most frequently used word (by readers) to describe this officer. When something bad happens to you, you call the police. The police dispatch a “jerk” that comes to you to help. How do you like that?
July 1, 2008: Today, a local journalist, who is writing an article about police abuse, has finally got the full name of the officer, "Nelson Rodriguez," also noting he had received nothing more than verbal counseling as a result of my complaint. In other words, he was not "punished" like my “informant” said he would be.
July 3, 2008: Tomorrow is the 4th of July. This year, the 4th of July sounds like a joke to me. It's just too much of a work to "defend" my freedom. Well, I couldn't defend it because I was afraid of being arrested, and that's what it is. Today, law enforcement officers can confiscate your electronics devices and get away with it.
July 4, 2008: I want to challenge the notion that there's nothing we can do to stop it. The fact that there are more occurrences of such police abuses in certain parts of the nation indicates to me that there are solutions to it. I believe it has to change internally, by improving educational/training curriculum.
Prior to this incident, I had known, through my friends and acquaintances, about unlawful arrests, intimidations, unjust citations given by Coral Gables Police officers. That’s why I thought I was going to be arrested if I didn’t corporate with Rodriguez. As far as I am concerned, Coral Gables Police has been known for rouge and unprofessional attitudes towards civilians. That, unfortunately, includes violence. Frankly I am very afraid of them, even though I am not criminal.
July 5, 2008: Some readers suggest I should sue the police department. In this country, lawyers don't take cases that don't generate one million dollars. However, I’ll do what I can do.
July 7, 2008: I need a break from this issue that has been consuming me and draining me.
July 9, 2008: If a little bit of abuse is okay, then just a little bit more abuse is also okay, then it somehow becomes like "abuse of power by law enforcement is okay." That's why I continue saying it's not okay.
July 10, 2008: Finally the article is out:Article on Miami New Times
July 14, 2008: I came to a realization that "Police state" has been already here for quite a while, but I didn't konw it until recently. To me, Civil Rights are the big jokes if they are not practiced. Constitutional rights? We don't have such things in Miami-Dade county.
July 15, 2008: Reading my report, some locals told me their experieces with the local police. I now know that we do live in a police state. I now stay home and don't go anywhere unless I absolutely have to.
American Civil Liverty Union is non-existant when a case is so minor like mine. They don't give a legal advice when they don't take your case. In South Florida, you are on your own. At least I was not killed this time because I was "lucky" or something.
July 23, 2008: It has been nearly a month and a half since. I have pretty much made up my mind that I will not go to any part of Coral Gables again. And my feeling are not getting any better. I stopped going to places and avoid Coral Gables as much as possible. I have not been able to work since. I had to change my routine because I ruled out Coral Gables, "the City Racist."
July 29, 2008: The true victims on this matter are residents and business owners of Coral Gables. They work hard to be able to afford living or working in Coral Gables. They pay a lot of taxes to support the public functions such as police, not knowing that they are financially supporting a gang organization, also known as "police." If the city gets sued, it is the city that loses money that came from all the people in Coral Gables.
August 9, 2008: I let the lawyers do whatever they can do for this matter so I can have my life back. In the months of June and July I hardly worked. A self employed "small-small" business person like me gets easily affected financially by a distraction like this. But this month I will make an effort to get back to normal, and it all thanks to the lawyers who took the worrisome legal part of this. This case will stay open. Although I do have a whole lot more to say about the dysfunction of law enforcement in this country, at this time I want to get back to my normal work routine.
September 9, 2008:Exactly 60 days after I filled out the intake form of American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, I received a (seemingly auto-responder) email from ACLU yesterday.
‘We have reviewed your complaint and regret to inform you that the ACLU of Florida declines to offer you legal assistance. Due to our limited resources, we cannot take all civil liberties cases brought to our attention, and we must concentrate our resources where they are most needed.”
I am certain this is an auto-responder that was queued at one point and was scheduled to be sent AFTER 60 days from the date of the request. They reviewed my case long time ago, but they didn’t send this email till now. So I figure they queue the response to be sent AFTER 60 days from the date of using the online intake form. Whether or not I think it’s nice to do so would probably make no difference in anything.
I know it doesn’t help if I complain about ACLU of Florida here, but I notice almost all people have higher expectations to ACLU and don’t realize ACLU Florida is too small to handle people’s needs. I am the minority who expect absolutely nothing from them. For one thing, I believe they should compile Florida version of “Know Your Right” presentation brochure, or if they have it, they should put that in their web site. I know almost nothing about laws, but even I know that State laws differ from each other in different states, so I think “Know Your Right Florida Version” is much needed here. Why other ACLU in other states have their “Know Your Right” brochures on their web sites and we don’t have it in Florida? My guess is that they don’t have resource and manpower to get to it. That’s pretty bad, as far as I am concerned.
Their web site (ACLU “of Florida”) is full of broken links and unstable. In June and July, I had difficulties just getting to the intake form page because the page was often “unavailable.” I found it odd that on some days intake page is accessible and on other days the page was “not found.” I am an Internet savvy and it’s not like I didn’t know how to get there, but something was wrong with the intake page for days. I am tired of being in ACLU Florida site and am not planning to waste my time more than I have wasted then.
In my opinion, if ACLU of Florida isn’t doing good works recognizable by its community, then less people in its community would support the organization. Less support means less budget and then that simply means low operation, under-staffed, less legal works, and a bad circulation over all.
Since I have no interest in living in this community, I really don’t care. Yes, I am assessing other cities in other states to move to. I want to move to an “American” city. Miami is not America. Miami is Miami. I have had just about enough.
October 18, 2008: Enough is enough. I am now traveling, looking for my type of city to live. Some trip photos are posted here.
November 18, 2008: I had been traveling for a month. I drove nearly 7,000 miles and am back to Miami. I sill have not made up my mind on where I move to. Most likely to California.
November 26, 2008: The Aelion Firm sent me a copy of Coral Gables Police Department Internal Affairs Section, Internal Affairs Contact Report today.
December 23, 2008: I have an appointment with an attorney tomorrow.
December 29, 2008: Since I don't want to interfere with the process with a help by others, I am not able to post what is going on with this case.
October 22, 2009: I no longer live in Florida. I moved in the spring of 2009 to California and do not have anything to do with this police case.
"Tomorrow is another day." - Scarlett O'Hara
Deleted photo were retreived by a paid software, "mm CARD Recovery," having taken a few hours to scan the entire 1MB card that officer Rodriguez deleted and taking another hour to save them. I recoll taking two more of the motorcycle photos, but I guess I couldn't retrieve them. I find the uniform of (any) police interesting. If he didn't delete ALL of my digital images in my memory card, this picture wasn't here posted on Internet, and there wasn't this web page, or was not posted in a local newspaper Miami New Times. Click on image to enlarge. Also, the original image file (3.4MB) is available to download here in zip file.
This is one of the many pictures that were deleted but later on was retrieved. I am not a professioanl photographer. I am an artist but not a photographer. Photography is my hobby, but not really serious of a hobby. I don't even have a fancy camera. I take pictures because I want to record how beautiful South Florida is.
Images, designs, texts, and programming codes: