Ten members of a South Florida police department’s SWAT team have resigned from the team, citing safety concerns and local officials’ “disdain” for the unit.
The eight officers and two sergeants resigned from the team, but did not resign from the Hallandale Beach Police Department.
Police Chief Sonia Quinones received a memo from the SWAT team Friday morning, City Manager Greg Chavarria said in a statement that thanked the officers for their service but disputed some of their account.
The officers said they were “minimally equipped” and had been “disrespected” by city officials who refused to address equipment and training concerns, the officers’ memo provided to The Associated Press by city officials said.
“The risk of carrying out our duties in this capacity is no longer acceptable to us and our families,” the officers wrote in the memo, dated June 9. “The anguish and stress of knowing that what we may be lawfully called upon to do in today’s political climate combined with the team’s current situation and several recent local events, leave us in a position that is untenable.”
The officers also said they were outraged that command staff had recently joined protesters and other officials in taking a knee as demonstrators called for the case of Howard Bowe to be reopened.
“This lack of support by members of the Command Staff is crippling to the agency and its rank and file,” the memo said.
Bowe, a 34-year-old black man, was killed in 2014 by Hallandale Beach’s SWAT team as it carried out a search warrant and raided his home. The officers wrote that investigators never found that any misconduct had been committed by the officers involved in Bowe’s death. The case later resulted in a $425,000 settlement between Bowe’s family and the city.
Chavarria’s statement said the officers’ memo incorrectly said that Quinones was supporting an elected official by taking a knee. The city manager said the chief was “taking a knee against racism, hatred and intolerance.”
The police chief has called a meeting for Monday afternoon with the resigning SWAT team members, among them the newly elected president of the International Union of Police Associations, Chavarria’s statement said. The city manager’s statement assured the public that Hallandale Beach would still have SWAT coverage through regional mutual aid arrangements.
The protests in Hallandale Beach have occurred as demonstrations continue to take place across the country against police brutality and the death of George Floyd. Floyd, a handcuffed black man, died in Minneapolis after an officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck for several minutes, ignoring Floyd’s cries that he couldn’t breathe.