Miami Police Get Geared Up For Hip Hop Fest

Slicksno.com -  Hip Hop NewsAs Memorial Day weekend kicks off in Miami Beach this weekend, police authorities have beefed up their presence to keep tabs on visiting rappers and the thousands of people expected to converge on the city, reports SOHH.com.

This year, 540 officers, roughly 30 more than last year, will serve 12-hour shifts while Miami’s Multi-Agency-Gang Task force will add 60 officers to secure the streets.

Other police agencies will be providing the city with their services as well.

Black Host Committee Chairman, Henry Crespo, confirms the city is getting geared up for the large crowds of hip hop fans.

“Yeah. They’re beefing up security,” Crespo told SOHH.com via phone. “The city of Miami only has 374 sworn officers. 200,000 people are anticipated coming. Presence is warranted for safety issues. We had less arrests last year than the year before.”

Meanwhile, the American Civil Liberties Union has criticized Miami Beach’s police measures. Earlier this week, leaders of the ACLU were scheduled to meet with city officials to address the oversized security, restrictions on particular events and the surveillance on Hip-Hop artists. However, City Manager Jorge Gonzales terminated the meeting after only 15 minutes.

“We tried to accommodate the request to have an emergency meeting, but it was turned into an interrogation session on topics that were not those they had led us to believe would be discussed,” Gonzalez told the Miami Herald. “It wasn’t productive.”

Last year, Luther “Luke” Campbell was prevented from performing at his own outdoor Umoja Festival. Though the city granted the Festival with a permit, they cited noise complaints for prohibiting the concert to take place. A day after the meeting with city reps, ACLU leaders faced the City Commission regarding restrictions similar to those enforced on Luke’s 2003 Festival.

“The misconceptions of police and city officials of Hip-Hop culture are driving the both the permitting process and the deployment of police,” King Downing, the ACLU’s national coordinator of the Campaign Against Racial Profiling, told The Herald. “It appears like there is serious discrimination that could amount to racial profiling.”

Henry Crespo sites the positive improvements that have been made as a result of Miami’s Black Host Committee’s diligence on this issue.

“Gradually, arrests are going down. This year, the Black Host Committee has been very instrumental in the police not using the riot gear,” Crespo said. “Last year they used it and we had several complaints about people feeling uneasy, feeling like it was almost a police state. When they conceded to go ahead and not use the riot gear, that’s when I assume that they got like 40 more officers.”

About two weeks ago, Crespo along with other black leaders and scholars, met with representatives of the Miami PD and other city officials. Crespo contends that the meeting was productive and that progress is on the way.

“The New York police have admitted they have a task force. In Miami, it’s an isolated incident. Cops in Miami for the most part…they’re not heavy handed. They don’t come out on you hard because they know that Hip-Hop’s economic impact is year round,” Crespo explained. “But what was said in the article gives a stigma with the police. People go to Miami year round. It’s jumping. You don’t hear about P. Diddy being arrested. Maybe in Miami, but not Miami Beach. I never heard of that.”