Police storm commission meeting, demand pay raise - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Police storm commission meeting, demand pay raise

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Off-duty Miami Police officers Off-duty Miami Police officers
City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado
Miami Fraternal Order of Police President Javier Ortiz Miami Fraternal Order of Police President Javier Ortiz

COCONUT GROVE, Fla. (WSVN) -- The dispute between City of Miami officials and Miami Police officers demanding a pay increase reached a boiling point Thursday when protesters stormed Miami City Hall in the middle of a commission meeting.

Unable to reach an agreement for their 2015 pay and benefits package, off-duty Miami Police officers dressed in white T-shirts that read "Restore Our Benefits" in bold black letters barged in to demand concessions, often speaking out of turn. "Enough is enough already," said an officer.

City of Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said the officers' job is to protect, not to create panic. "Miami's finest had their darkest day," he said.

At one point, Regalado said, the protesters banged on windows and gained access to second-floor administrative offices. "If these were civilians, they would have been arrested," he said.

Regalado said women burst into tears, while others left through the fire escape. "There were several ladies that were crying because those officers were threatening them," said Regalado.

Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa had left the meeting, and there was no commanding officer on hand to order the protesters to stop. In an e-mail sent to the officers, Orosa said those involved "placed several administrative officers in fear for their safety."

Orosa continued, "The disruption of a governmental official meeting is a prosecutable crime." Should it happen again, Orosa said, "Members should expect punitive legal action."

Miami Police Sgt. Javier Ortiz, the president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, said protesting officers have no intentions of backing down. "Will this be the last demonstration? No, there's more to come," he said.

Ortiz said the demonstrators did nothing wrong, citing their First Amendment rights. "Just because they're police officers does not mean that we waive our rights as U.S. citizens here," he said.

On Tuesday, the union's attorney sent Orosa a letter stating, "Any administrative employee who feared for their safety is simply delusional." Further, the attorney asked the chief, "Join us in our fight."

"We're not there in anyway to intimidate anyone, as the chief apparently tried to do with this e-mail," said Ortiz.

Regalado, however, said the armed off-duty officers were intimidating. He's looking into whether he can keep off-duty police from carrying guns into City Hall, something Ortiz said the union is prepared to fight.

Regalado said the protesters' efforts carry a heavy price. "They're losing with the people of Miami," he said.

Orosa declined 7News' interview requests. However, a spokesperson for the department said the chief stands by the remarks he made in his e-mail.

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