Imagine working at a convenient store and being arrested for trespassing. Imagine for four years, you’re stopped 258 times by the police. Imagine being searched more than 100 times. Imagine being arrested and put in jail 56 times, with your highest criminal offense being possession of marijuana.
This is all happening in Miami Gardens, Florida to a man named Earl Sampson, 28, who has been arrested 62 times for trespassing, during working hours, at his place of employment, according to USA Today.
Almost all the citations that Sampson has received have been issued at 207 Quickstop, a convenience store located at 207th street in Miami Gardens; the place he works at. Simply by showing up to work, Sampson gets cited - even when his boss tells police that he's allowed to be there and isn't trespassing.
Alex Saleh, 36, owner of 207 Quickstop, which has been in business for 17 years, has been curious as to why his employees and customers have been constantly pestered by Miami Gardens police. Saleh told the Herald that he’s seen stops occur three times in the same day. It is because of this constant harassment by police that Saleh installed 15 video cameras in his store on June 2012; he’s never been robbed.
“Police line them up and tell them to put their hands against the wall. I started asking myself ‘Is this normal?’ I just kept thinking police can’t do this,’’ Saleh said.
“There is just no justifying this kind of behavior,” police policy consultant Chuck Drago told the Herald. “Nobody can justify overstepping the constitution to fight crime.”
“The real problem here is the police department does not have a relationship with its community – black or white. When they make these kinds of stops for minor offenses, it only re-enforced the mistrust.”
Five videos that Saleh captured show the cops stopping people, questioning them, searching them, and arresting them for trespassing in 207 Quickshop.
Despite phone messages and emails, questions regarding the behavior of the police were met with silence by both the Miami Gardens Police Chief Matthew Boyd, and City Manager Cameron Benson.
Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union Florida, asked, “Where is the police chief in all this? In a police department in a city this size, this kind of behavior could not escape his attention. Doesn’t the City Commission know that they are exposing the city to either massive liability for civil rights violations? Either that, or they are going to wake up one day and find the U.S. Department of Justice has taken over its police department.’’
According to the Herald, a pending lawsuit is at hand; Saleh and his lawyer, Steve Lopez, are preparing for a federal civil rights lawsuit that claims the Miami Gardens Police have engaged routinely in racial profiling, cover ups of illegal misconducts, and unconstitutional stops and searches.
On November 4th, the Herald reported that Miami Gardens had 3 shooting deaths in less than 24 hours; the town has been facing troubles with gang violence and drug related crimes. The murder rates have more than doubled in recent years. It is fear that blinds men.
(Pictures via Alex Saleh’s video footage)