Miami Gardens Police Arrest Store Employee 62 Times For Trespassing At His Place Of Employment

from the insanity-defined dept

The city of Miami has no “stop and frisk” program, but you’d be forgiven for assuming it does after hearing this amazing (in all the wrong ways) story.

Earl Sampson has been stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens police 258 times in four years.

He’s been searched more than 100 times. And arrested and jailed 56 times.

Despite his long rap sheet, Sampson, 28, has never been convicted of anything more serious than possession of marijuana.

Miami Gardens police have arrested Sampson 62 times for one offense: trespassing.

Almost every citation was issued at the same place: the 207 Quickstop, a convenience store on 207th Street in Miami Gardens.

FDLE records show that Sampson was stopped at least once a week for the past four years, and sometimes several times a week and even as many as three times in one day. The stops are often conducted by the same police officers, who have arrested him time and time again.

The problem here isn’t just the endless harassment of one resident who doesn’t seem to be a threat to anyone. The problem here is the fact that Sampson works for the 207 Quickstop. It’s pretty hard to “trespass” on property when you have the explicit permission to be there. It would be shady enough if the cops were just picking up Sampson every time he visited the store, but they’ve been patting him down, questioning him and sometimes arresting him for trespassing during his shifts.

One video, recorded on June 26, 2012, shows Sampson, clearly stocking coolers, being interrupted by MGPD Sgt. William Dunaske, who orders him to put his hands behind his back, and then handcuffs him, leads him out of the store and takes him to jail for trespassing.

Another video posted at the Miami Herald website shows Sampson being arrested for trespassing when he returns to the store after taking out the trash. (That arrest report says Sampson was “loitering” outside the store, but the video clearly shows he left, threw trash in the container, and went back in followed by the police officer who arrested him.)

Sampson’s not the only one being harassed by the MGPD, although he is the main concern of the owner of the 207 Quickstop, Alex Saleh. Saleh fought back, though, installing 15 cameras to catch the endless harassment of Sampson and customers of his store.

The videos show, among other things, cops stopping citizens, questioning them, aggressively searching them and arresting them for trespassing when they have permission to be on the premises; officers conducting searches of Saleh’s business without search warrants or permission; using what appears to be excessive force on subjects who are clearly not resisting arrest and filing inaccurate police reports in connection with the arrests.

Saleh pins this invasion by Miami Gardens PD on his unfortunate decision to mark his store as part of the PD’s “zero tolerance zone.”

Almost immediately after Saleh put the “zero-tolerance” sign in his window, he regretted it.

Miami Gardens police officers, he said, began stopping his patrons regularly, citing them for minor infractions such as trespassing, or having an open container of alcohol. The officers, he said, would then pat them down or stick their hands in citizens’ pockets. But what bothered Saleh the most was the emboldened behavior of the officers who came into his store unannounced, searched his store without his permission and then hauled his employees away in the middle of their shifts.

The “zero tolerance zone” turns over a whole lot of power to the Miami Gardens PD. Here’s part of the description from the MGPD’s website (which hasn’t been updated in more than 5 years…).

This simple program asks local business owners to complete a simple affidavit, and post a sign on their properties, which allows MGPD officers to act on behalf of the business owners in their absence. The program also gives MGPD officers the authority to direct unauthorized personnel to leave private property or risk enforcement action from the officers…

This program is designed to reduce the number of individuals who are sometimes seen trespassing and loitering on private property without legitimate business.

This would explain all the “trespassing” charges. The affidavit gives the MGPD permission to patrol the store and surrounding area and make arrests/question citizens as officers see fit. This lowers the bar for police officers, removing anything resembling probable cause or reasonable suspicion.

But even as limitless as this is, the MGPD went even further when “patrolling” the 207 Quickstop. You’ll note that the agreement gives the PD permission to act on behalf of business owners “in their absence.” Saleh was present for a great many of these “interactions.” Not only that, but the officers’ idea of acting on Saleh’s “behalf” was to harass and arrest many of his customers, which is a strange way of construing this relationship. Stores need customers to purchase their goods, something that occurs less frequently when the patrons are being detained, questioned or arrested.

Saleh regretted this decision after seeing what “zero tolerance” (as applied by the MGPD) actually entailed. But Miami Gardens PD doesn’t take “no” for answer.

He finally told them he no longer wanted to participate in the program and removed the sign.

The officers, however, continued their surveillance of his store over his objections. The officers even put the sign back on his store against his wishes, he said.

Things got worse when Saleh took copies of his video to MGPD Internal Affairs.

One evening, shortly after he had complained a second time, a squadron of six uniformed Miami Gardens police officers marched into the store, he says. They lined up, shoulder to shoulder, their arms crossed in front of them, blocking two grocery aisles.

“Can I help you?” Saleh recalls asking. It was an entire police detail, known as the department’s Rapid Action Deployment (RAD) squad, whom he had come to know from their frequent arrest sweeps. One went to use the restroom, and five of them stood silently for a full 10 minutes. Then they all marched out.

Saleh also details a recent incident where an MGPD officer pulled him over for having a tag light out. By the time it was all done, six officers had arrived on the scene and one searched Saleh’s vehicle without his permission. Saleh’s recordings show him leaving the store that night in his vehicle. His tag lights were working.

As is usually the case in incidents like these, the police department has not offered a comment on this story. Police Chief Matthew Boyd did apparently issue a boilerplate statement about the PD’s “commitment” to “serving and protecting citizens and businesses,” but didn’t address any specific complaints.

Violent crime, particularly murder, has spiked in Miami Gardens in recent months, but this application of “zero tolerance” policies will do very little to bring those numbers down. What it will do, however, is fill activity logs and ledgers that will show the PD is very busy keeping Miami Gardens free of “trespassers” and handing out open container citations. Even if this story hadn’t broken, a few years of skyrocketing arrests and tickets without a corresponding drop in violent crime would have exposed the MGPD’s superficial, shoddy and ultimately unconstitutional efforts.

Saleh’s filing a lawsuit against the city for this non-stop harassment, including warrantless searches of his premises. Not unsurprisingly, the announcement of his litigation has led to a sharp drop in police presence at the 207 Quickstop. Sampson himself hasn’t been arrested since this announcement, either. If the MGPD sincerely believed they were helping curb violent crime by questioning/arresting Sampson and other Quickstop employees and customers, discussion of a lawsuit wouldn’t have deterred those efforts. This withdrawal indicates the cops patrolling Saleh’s store were, to put it most generously, padding arrest numbers. The reality is that they’ve been called out for their harassment of Miami Gardens’ residents and are now making themselves scarce in order to prevent adding to the evidence against them.

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Comments on “Miami Gardens Police Arrest Store Employee 62 Times For Trespassing At His Place Of Employment”

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77 Comments
That One Guy (profile) says:

Things got worse when Saleh took copies of his video to MGPD Internal Affairs.

I suppose I can understand the (incredibly naive) belief that Internal Affairs is there to actually keep such activities in check, but at the same time… oiy does that strike me as clueless. If the police in that area are being so incredibly blatant in their harassment, then either they are masters of deception and explanation, or the department has no problem with their actions as long as it doesn’t draw too much attention.

Though it would entail more than a little risk, given what they’ve already shown they are willing to do, another way of handling that would be, after the thug squad showed up at the store, to just start posting the videos online, with tip-offs to local newspapers about them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

As futile as you can expect taking copies of the video and the complaints to Internal Affairs to be, it’s probably a necessary step to take to lend strength to the lawsuit when Internal Affairs inevitably does nothing.

It certainly cuts off the line of argument that the store owner could have taking it to Internal Affairs and they would have straightened it out.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

To apologize is to admit you did something wrong. That’s not standard procedure for the police in this country. They’re shameless and will only give a forced apology if it is forced upon them after they throw a tantrum that would put most 2 year olds to shame….

Also worth noting that all of their apologies are sugar coated with excuses and paid vacations….

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Agreed; typical criminal enterprises (that aren’t the police) are generally just in it for the money ? the gangsters in blue (or more frequently, paramilitary-black nowadays) seem to thrive on causing human pain and suffering, destroying lives, and breaking families apart.

Stories like this guy’s are unfolding all across the country against millions of innocent people who’re minding their own business, and just trying to live their life and hopefully have a non-shitty day.

For myself, I’ll choose an old-fashioned mugging over catching “police attention” any day. (I’ve experienced the former, but just see and read about the latter, for the most part.) I can hardly imagine how much worse it must be ? and feel ? for people with skin darker than my own (Nordic-looking white), and/or resources lower than my own ((falling)-middle-class). :o(

Anonymous Coward says:

i just wonder what excuses are going to be dreamed up and used against all the video evidence that will be presented and the number of times that certain staff have been arrested for carrying out their duties at their place of work! given that we are talking about the ‘democratic country of the USA, where freedom, privacy and the non-harrassment of citizens are top of the list of priorities of security forces’, it should make interesting reading!
when are people actually going to wake up and rebel against this reign of terror that is being waged by the government and the forces supposedly representing the government? we are so close to being in the shit so deep that we cant get out unless there is serious rebellion of some sort. that will not end well!

Jerrymiah (profile) says:

Re: MPAG harassement

That goes all the way up to the leadership ofg this country. That’s is the Obama doctrine, and it goes all the way down to state and cily levels. Don’t trust anyone. Spy on everyone. Harassement of everyone is now the norm in this country. Thanks to Obama and Eric Holder for this. Not that the republicans would do any better, the party presently has no soul, nor has it had any for at least 10 years.

anonymouse says:

Re: Re: MPAG harassement

Nope, this has been happening for many years and is only becoming so well known because of the internet and places like techdirt and reddit and other news sites that people read regularly.And there is no way that things are as bad as they were in the 50’s and 60’s where the police were way out of control compared to now, now there are little batches of thugs in the police department, maybe growing because they are getting away with everything including murder.

Nick (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Well, you can hardly claim this is the government doing it. People who work on behalf of it, sure. But they were undoubtedly abusing their power, and this is in no way the official policy of the police department or the government on the whole.

Government can have great uses, you just have to have a LOT of checks in place to stop anyone who has power from abusing it.

GeneralEmergency (profile) says:

Mr. Sampson needs a decent Pro-Bono Atty.

.

Mr. Sampson needs to petition the courts to vacate and seal each and every one of those trespassing arrests and if I were the sitting Judge, I’d vacate and seal the weed bust too just for good measure.

Also…

The news of this can’t be sitting too well with the good folks who live in that county and if I were the local DA, I’d be getting out in front of this by empaneling a Grand Jury before the PD has time to get their lies all in a line.

Let’s be clear on this. This is not a case of “good men going too far”. This is a clear-cut case of governmental corruption and conspiracy.

.

anonymouse says:

and

He should have invited people to coem to his store to be arrested illegaly then let every one of the put in a charge of illegal arrest. I am sure that if there had been a few hundred cases laid against the police force over a short time period the police would have been forced to fire some of their members or face serious financial implications.

Another thing is that i am sure reddit would have loved to support this guy by having a few dozen people visit the store and be arrested then other jumping out and laughing in the cops face and saying he has been caught on camera and his illegal actions would be spread over the internet. Damn they could have got a few really good videos making the cops look bad, maybe even started to harass the police.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

This whole story is so outrageous that it reads like an Onion spoof report except I know techdirt is too savvy to fall for such a thing. To have an employee mistakenly arrested once for trespassing, perhaps understandable and he should have received a sincere apology. To have this happen dozens of times even after being reported to internal affairs just shows that this whole department is corrupt from the top down.
I am usually the first to defend our police who for the most part are brave men who put their lives on the line to protect us. There was a case in my city recently where a fleeing burglar fired on an officer and instead of firing back he continued the chase and ordered him to put the weapon down. When he turned around with the gun still raised the cop shot and killed him. All of this was CAUGHT ON SURVEILLANCE TAPE. Many complained “couldn’t he have jut shot him in the leg?” It’s good cops like this catching flack because of rotten bullies like those in this story.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

The problem comes when you realize how few of those ‘thousands of good cops’ are willing to actually do anything when the bad cops get out of line and start abusing their authority.

‘The blue wall of silence’ is a fairly well known term for a reason, because when it comes down to cop vs. citizen, the other officers will almost always defend the cop, no matter how crooked they are, even if it’s simply through staying silent.

Put simply, when rotten cops get away with their actions, because the ‘good’ cops don’t care enough to handle them, and will in fact back them if it comes down to it, then they are telling everyone that they either don’t care, or approve of the actions of the rotten officers, which makes them no better.

If they want to fix their reputation, and no longer be painted with the same brush as the bad cops, then the first step they need to do is start dealing with their own, in-house problems, applying the law to their own, not just the public.

Until that happens, like it or not, all the police will be considered just as bad as the rotten and corrupt ones.

erik jay says:

Re: Re: Re: Call the cops? You nuts?

Ha ha ha! I would NEVER call the cops if I heard someone breaking into my house. WTF would that accomplish? In some places, the don’t come for hours. Some places, bub, they don’t come AT ALL. I have lived in LA apartments, and now on 11 acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains, and in neither spot would I even consider wasting a call. Why? If someone is up here, half a mile off a county road, they know me, live around here, or are about to be seriously put down by a .44 magnum. And until those so-called good cops start cleaning out the so-called few baddies, it is safer to consider them all potential goons. How does my dystopian vision work out? The police have been made into a national, Pentagon-equipped force, and cops have a lot of practice killing unarmed civilians. The military voted for Ron Paul over Obama, and they are not going to fire on unarmed civilians. Aided by an armed populace, military noncoms and grunts (and Natl Guard) save us from the officer elites, cops, and mercenaries.

res (profile) says:

Re: oldgeezer-

Yes there are some really bad cops in Miami but not all of them are crazy. I used to live there in my college years and knew a few cops. One was the most misbehaved child you could ever imagine and the other was a wonderful, helpful and caring person.

I do not know why police departments do not give everyone a MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory test) If properly read it would keep the departments from hiring those bad cops.

Wouldn’t it be great if there were state standard training for the police. Here in CA the Highway Patrol is trained at one facility so everyone has the same set of tools. The general police do whatever they want to. Please correct me if I am wrong.

OldGeezer (profile) says:

Re: Re: oldgeezer-

Just recently in my county two officers responded to a domestic violence call and a young deputy with a wife and small children took a bullet to the head. This kind of thing happens all too often and every cops knows that every day they are taking this risk. You can’t tell me that most men who are on this job are not brave individuals who deserve our respect. Sometimes there are rouge cops and as in this case sometimes corruption goes well up the chain of command. Abuses will eventually be exposed and those responsible individuals dealt with. Sad that this tarnishes the memory of our brave deputy whose babies will never know their father. He saved the life of a woman that he never knew.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: oldgeezer-

Just recently in my county two officers responded to a domestic violence call and a young deputy with a wife and small children took a bullet to the head. This kind of thing happens all too often and every cops knows that every day they are taking this risk.

RT recently reported that US cops shot dead 400-500 unarmed “suspects” last year. (“Suspect” is cop jargon for “non-cop,” by the way.)

Every day, I take the risk of being beaten, taken, harassed, shot, electrocuted, verbally abused, or sprayed with a chemical weapon by cops, deputies, troopers, and federal agents, and I’m forced to pay for it.

You can’t tell me that most men who are on this job are not brave individuals who deserve our respect.

Oh, please… Am I being trolled? You’re killin’ me with your ridiculous nonsense.

Sure… It takes a lot of guts to shoot black kids in their back, electrocute people with vision/hearing deficiencies, and spray chemical weapons into the faces of college kids exercising their rights under the First Amendment ? especially gutsy knowing they can’t and won’t be held liable for their crimes, and none of their partners in crime will say word, including these mythical “good ones” you speak of.

Tell me, what does cop boot taste like? My guess: The crap and blood of all the innocent people they kicked down and stomped on that day.

“Deserve our respect?” Most of them deserve prison. We’d have a safer and happier country if we cut money wasted on cops and simply increased education and human welfare spending, lowering criminality before it starts.

Abuses will eventually be exposed and those responsible individuals dealt with.

Well, you got that right, at least ? those responsible for exposing the abuses will be dealt with: Most likely by disappearing into a shallow grave with a bullet to the back of the skull, or conveniently “caught” with a brick of coke that wasn’t actually there until the cop “found” it. What a useful tool possession laws make, hmm?

Anonymous Coward says:

http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/11/22/3772817_p2/miami-gardens-defends-cops-accused.html

Deputy Police Chief Paul Miller pledged: ?If there?s improper conduct we will certainly take action.?

But he added: ?I would caution painting this isolated incident in a 20-square-mile city as the norm.?

One arrest is an “isolated incident”. Arresting the same person dozens of times for trespassing at the place where he works is not.

The involved officers seriously need to be arrested themselves.

mattshow (profile) says:

I’d be really curious to see a city solicitor explain the legal basis for this Zero Tolerance program. When I go into a store, my right to be free from search and seizure by the police is MY right. A store owner can’t just sign that away.

It sounds a bit like the officers are just supposed to be exercising the store owner’s rights on their behalf. But that still doesn’t make any sense to me.

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