Miami suburb sued for aggressive police tactics, racial profiling

MIAMI (REUTERS) - The mayor and police department of a predominantly black Miami suburb have been hit with a federal civil rights lawsuit over the alleged use of aggressive police tactics, including stop-and-frisk searches and arbitrary arrests, targeting African Americans.

The 144-page lawsuit was filed in United States (US) District Court last Friday against the City of Miami Gardens.

It followed a report in the Miami Herald newspaper last month alleging a long history of police abuse and racial profiling in the crime-plagued suburb, located on the northern outskirts of Miami.

Plaintiffs in the lawsuit are led by Mr Ali ADeThe suit Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert III, the lead defendant in the lawsuit, did not immediately return phone calls or an email from Reuters seeking comment on the complaint.

The lawsuit, which seeks unspecified punitive and compensatory damages, notes that Mr Saleh has been the owner of the QuickStop since 1999.

"Over the course of approximately five years, spanning from 2008 to 2013, Mr Saleh's Quik Stop was unlawfully searched without reasonable suspicion or arguable probable cause, numerous times by MGPD (Miami Gardens Police Department) officers," the complaint says.

"In addition, MGPD officers have engaged in a policy, practice and/or custom of stopping-and-frisking, searching, seizing, and arresting patrons of his QuickStop while they are on the premises for loitering or trespassing," it added.

It said the arrests and searches came despite repeated protests from Mr Saleh, who told police the "suspects" targeted on his property had his full permission and authority to be there.

Mr Saleh's business has suffered severely as a result of the police tactics, the complaint says.

One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is identified as 28-year-old Earl Sampson, an African-American and employee of the QuickStop since October 2011.

"Over the course of approximately five years, spanning from 2008 to 2013, Mr Sampson was unlawfully stopped-and-frisked, searched, seized, and/or arrested 288 times within the City and by MGPD officers - the equivalent of roughly once every week for four years," the suit says.

"In all 288 instances, an investigatory stop was performed by MGPD officers who checked Mr. Sampson for outstanding warrants," it says.

"Well over 200 of these stop-and-frisks, searches, seizures, and/or arrests occurred without the reasonable articulable suspicion and/or probable cause required by law," the complaint said.