Police video sparked outrage, but a Miami-Dade commissioner isn’t ready to judge

A video showing a Miami-Dade officer forcing a woman to the ground after she reported a gun threat quickly led to the officer being relieved of duty once the images became public last week.

On Tuesday, the county commissioners who oversee the department weighed in on the controversy. Some weren’t ready to say the officer did anything wrong.

“There have been assumptions made today here that the officers escalated that situation,” Commissioner Joe Martinez, a retired county police officer, said during an appearance by the county’s police director, Juan Perez.

“Nobody knows. Everybody immediately takes the side against the officer, without knowing the full story,” Martinez continued. “I wasn’t there. I can’t comment on what happened before. I do know the person was not compliant. That leads, also, to escalation.”

Martinez was responding to Barbara Jordan, the commissioner who led a failed effort last year to establish the kind of civilian panel that Miami and other local governments have to investigate possible police misconduct.

“The first thing that came to my mind was additional training for our officers. And how they can handle situations, without escalating the situations,” said Jordan, a former assistant county manager. “Now officers may feel differently. Quite honestly, I know what happens in our community. And i just want to make sure we have the proper training.”

Perez did not respond, except to say “correct” when Jordan said officers should be trained to avoid escalations. Last week, he called the video “deeply troubling” and said it did not reflect the police agency’s “core values of integrity, respect, service and fairness…”

Cellphone video and footage from officers’ body cameras of the March 5 incident in Southwest Miami-Dade show Dyma Loving telling officers a neighbor threatened her with a shotgun.

She became visibly frustrated with the officers as they asked her and a friend whether they had used a slur against the neighbor. As Loving grew frustrated at the officers for not taking action, she said: “Y’all got to do something.”

Then an officer identified as Alejandro Giraldo said she needed to calm down, and suggested taking her into custody for mental instability. “You’re acting disorderly,” the officer said. “You know what? She needs to be Baker Acted if anything.”

Giraldo has been on the force for 12 years. Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who appointed Perez and oversees the police force, said he thought the two rookie officers with Giraldo appeared to behave appropriately. “The training is fine,” he said. “We can use the [incident] as training of what not to do.”