Miami’s second black policewoman, one of four majors demoted this week with little explanation from the new police chief, has informed the city that she is seeking whistleblower status and intends to file a lawsuit. civil rights lawsuit.
Keandra Simmons believes she was targeted because she did not support the dismissal of the city’s most senior married couple, a deputy chief and his wife, who commanded the Little Havana neighborhood.
Simmons, a 16-year veteran who oversaw the evidence room, once commanded Liberty City and was one of the city’s first black women in charge of public information. Chief Art Acevedo told him late last week that she and three others were demoted and the chef was hiring a new assistant who had previously worked for him in Houston.
The brief memo sent to senior officers last Friday indicates that Acevedo decided to make the changes after speaking with each staff officer and community members. Simmons, 41, was reduced to the rank of lieutenant in field operations and his salary was reduced.
Late Sunday night, Simmons’ attorney Michael Pizzi filed complaints with the city, notifying Acevedo, the mayor, the city’s attorney and city manager that Simmons was seeking whistleblower protection and that the city no hadn’t explained why she was demoted.
Pizzi said the Major would go ahead with a lawsuit “based on the injuries suffered by defamation, racial and gender discrimination, harassment, deprivation of the First Amendment and due process rights.”
The lawyer said his client believed she was demoted for statements made as a witness when asked about the June dismissal of Deputy Chief Ron Papier and his wife, Cmdr. Nerly Papier – a controversial decision by the new boss after Nerly Papier blew two tires while hitting a sidewalk with his city vehicle. The accident happened while the chef was reporting to staff and just three days before he was sworn in.
The chief found that Nerly Papier omitted important details during the investigation and that her husband did not recuse himself or speak of an investigation by the Miami-Dade state attorney into the case. Pizzi claims Simmons was fired because she was unwilling to support the chief’s conclusions and said her commanding officer was aware of the crash and had seen photos.
“He is punishing her for the way she participated in an investigation,” Pizzi said, calling her demotion “a slap in the face to the black community, especially to all residents of Miami.”
Late Monday morning, Acevedo said he had yet to see Simmons’ letter and was unwilling to debate the matter publicly.
“If they want to take legal action, it is their prerogative,” said the chief. “When you hold an appointed position, you know you are [working] at will. “
Filing whistleblower status serves two purposes: it informs the city of a possible future lawsuit – a requirement that gives the city a chance to right an alleged wrongdoing – and it is supposed to protect Simmons from any retaliation.
Simmons attended Police Academy in 2004 and worked in administration, criminal investigations and field operations in Miami. She rose through the ranks to become a sergeant, lieutenant, commander and major. Prior to her demotion – which took effect Sunday – she oversaw the city’s fleet and the department’s property room.
Acevedo’s new hires include his former deputy boss in Houston, Heather R. Morris. She will be Acevedo’s new assistant. Joelle Lee-Silcox, a recent graduate from Florida International University in International Crime and Justice, has also been hired as a criminal analyst.
In a letter to the city, Pizzi said Simmons is seeking immediate reinstatement in major damages.
“Chief Acevedo retaliates against Simmons for refusing to support Chief Acevedo’s reckless and instinctive witch-hunt to take adverse action against Chief Papier and others,” Pizzi said.