The entire special weapons and tactics (SWAT) Team of the Hallandale Beach Police Department resigned on Friday in response to Police Chief Sonia Quinones kneeling alongside protesters demonstrating against anti-black police brutality.
On Friday, City Manager Greg Chavarria received a memorandum dated June 9 from members of SWAT team. In the memo, the officers submitted their resignation. One of the officers was the newly elected president of the International Union of Police Associations (IUPA) Police Union.
The memo said the SWAT team was “minimally equipped, under-trained and often times restrained by the politicization of our tactics.” It accused city leaders of not providing an adequate budget to address these needs.
The memo also claimed that the city’s Vice-Mayor Sabrina Javellana made “ignorant and inaccurate statements attacking the lawful actions” of the police and SWAT teams in speeches and on social media including “having the gall to compare us to the Minneapolis Police Department.”
It went on to accuse Quinones of “taking a knee in solidarity” with Javellana and other political activists who allegedly chanted “Howard Bowe, reopen the case, State Attorney, reopen the case.”
The alleged chant refers to a black 34-year-old resident who died on May 19, 2014, 11 days after he was shot during an early-morning SWAT team raid on his home.
Although the SWAT team had a search warrant, the police shot the family dog chained outside of the home and didn’t knock before entering, as was required by the warrant. Bowes’ family filed a wrongful death lawsuit in federal court against the city and four police officers involved.
The city ended up paying a $425,000 settlement to the man’s family, and the Hallandale Police assured the family “they don’t use military-style raids for minor drug investigations anymore,” according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. The officers were cleared of any wrongdoing after an internal review.
Chavarria said that while the officers have quit the SWAT team, they have not resigned from the police department. He also said the city will continue to have special weapons and tactics coverage through regional mutual aid despite their mass resignation.
Lastly, Chavarria said the SWAT team incorrectly interpreted the significance of Quinones kneeling alongside protesters.
“They specifically mention their displeasure with the Chief joining members of our community in taking a knee against racism, hatred, and intolerance earlier this week,” Chavarria told CBS 12 News. “They have incorrectly stated the gesture was in support of an elected official. This is simply not true.”
Quinones has scheduled a meeting on Monday at 3 p.m. to hear the concerns of the officers who signed the memo. At that time, she will also collect their equipment.
Newsweek reached out to the Hallandale Beach Police Department for comment. This story will be updated with any response.
Officers from police forces across the U.S. have occasionally kneeled alongside racial justice protesters in a show of solidarity. However, some protesters have called such public gestures “copaganda,” claiming it does nothing to resolve the systemic policing issues that continue to disproportionately harm black citizens and others.