Miami pays to settle with ex-investigator for police oversight panel who said she was victim of racism

A meeting of Miami’s Civilian Investigative Panel

By Francisco Alvarado,

An ex-investigator for the City of Miami’s Civilian Investigative Panel is getting $150,000 in taxpayer funds for settling a federal lawsuit accusing her former boss, Cristina Beamud, of making derogatory remarks about black people and refusing to raise her salary because of her skin color.

The Miami City Commission quietly approved the settlement last month with Shewanda Hall, an African-American who worked for the police oversight advisory board, known by the acronym CIP, for nearly seven years until Beamud fired her in 2014.

U.S. District Court Judge Marcia G. Cooke dismissed Hall’s lawsuit on Dec. 6, the same day the CIP sustained allegations against a high-profile police captain of abusing the department’s off-duty security jobs policy and posting “derogatory language and images” on his social media accounts. The panel recommended the Miami Police Department take disciplinary action against Capt. Javier Ortiz, a district director for the rank-and-file’s union, the Florida Fraternal Order of Police, who is accused of using inflammatory rhetoric against his detractors.

Hall sued the city for race and gender discrimination in July stemming from alleged incidents that took place during her final months working under the command of Beamud, a white woman, five years ago.

“During Hall’s employment, Beamud took adverse job actions against black employees, while treating non-black employees more favorably,” the complaint states. “Beamud  made derogatory comments about Hall’s race, including that: ‘Black people are like animals– haha,’ and ridiculed the way Hall and another black woman spoke.”

Hall’s attorney, Gina Cadogan, did not respond to multiple Florida Bulldog emails and phone messages seeking comment. A spokesperson for the Miami City Attorney’s Office declined comment.

Civilian Investigative Panel

Only two of the CIP’s 12 board members, private investigator Stephen Navarette and Coconut Grove Village Council member Courtney Omega, responded to inquiries. Navarette and Omega both said they were not aware of Hall’s lawsuit and the settlement.

Cristina Beamud

“This all happened before my time,” Navarette said. “In the limited time I have been here, Ms. Beamud has been one of the biggest advocates for minorities, particularly African-Americans. This is all a surprise to me.”

Omega said she has not seen or experienced any behavior from Beamud that would suggest the allegations Hall made against the panel’s executive director are true. “Could things have been said that left people feeling offended and insulted, and could these issues have been real concerns? Absolutely,” Omega said. “I don’t put it past anyone.”

Just as the Civilian Investigative Panel has a duty to hold police officers accountable for misconduct, the board’s employees and members should be subjected to the same level of scrutiny, Omega added. “If not, then what is the purpose of the CIP?” Omega said. “Its entire creation is a farce if we can’t be held accountable to the same type of criticism and oversight we are undertaking.”

The panel was created in 2002 following a successful voter referendum a year earlier to form the civilian oversight agency in the wake of a high-profile corruption case involving the indictment of 13 officers accused of planting guns on unarmed black suspects, some of whom were shot dead by police. In 2013, Beamud took helm of the panel after serving a stint as the first executive director of Atlanta’s Citizen Review Board.

CIP was a mess

According to an April 29, 2014 Miami Herald article, the CIP was a mess. Despite rules requiring its investigations be completed within 30 days after the police department’s internal affairs probe was closed or 120 days after initiating its own review, the CIP had dozens of open cases dating back to 2009. At the time, Beamud said the CIP maintained shoddy record-keeping and that she could not say how many cases had surpassed the panel’s deadlines.

During her first five months on the job, the panel twice voted to recommend firing Beamud when other racism allegations against her initially surfaced. Then-City Manager Daniel Alfonso, who had final say, declined to do so.

Three African-American employees left the CIP early in Beamud’s tenure. Investigator Nikko Evans and administrative assistant Barbara Sweet resigned and Beamud terminated Hall for alleged insubordination, according to the Herald article. Sweet had also made similar allegations as the ones contained in Hall’s federal lawsuit. Sweet had attached ripped-up Post-it notes to an administrative complaint that she claimed she had retrieved from Beamud’s office trash. One note read “black people are like animals” and another contained the n-word, according to the Herald. Beamud at the time denied being a racist.

In her lawsuit, Hall alleges that when she was hired in 2008, she took over a position held by a white male investigator who “earned considerably more for performing the same job duties.” Hall made numerous requests to reclassify her position in order to receive a pay raise to bring her salary in line with the one paid to the man she replaced, the complaint states. It never happened, she alleged.

“Conversely when her White or Hispanic comparators requested reclassification due to working out of class, they received the proper reclassification and the commensurate pay raises,” the lawsuit states. “In addition to that, Beamud subjected Hall to increased scrutiny over her work in comparison to the non-Black comparators.”

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  • In Hall’s suit, it was never proven that Ms. Beamud actually discriminated against anyone. There are a myriad of reasons why a civil case would settle and we just don’t know why this case settled. It could have settled because there was overwhelming evidence against Beamud, but if there was, why would the plaintiff settle? It could have settled because the defense attorney felt he had a good case but still only had a 50/50 chance of winning and it was less risky to settle than to go through a trial – who knows! The bottom line is that we live in a time where an allegation is as good as conviction and we need to do better than this as a society. Look what happened with Jussie Smollett or with the Virginia girl who accused white boys of cutting her dreadlocks only to later admit she made it all up. Also, see the 9/30/2019 article published by The Washington Times titled “Fake hate-crime report at Christian school fuels hoax epidemic” that discusses how falsified hate crimes are on the rise. Finally, and most importantly, it is unfair to compare the allegation against Ms. Beamud (that was not proven) with the actions of Captain Ortiz, which are not disputed because he actually posted social media posts that violated police department policy and Captain Ortiz should be held accountable. I publically spoke with Captain Ortiz at the complaint committee meeting and I gave him the respect he deserves to look him in the eye and explain why I voted to sustain the allegation against him. I was fair with him in this case as I was fair with him in all his cases. In fact, after this meeting, on 12/4/2019 he posted a twitter post thanking us at the CIP for what we do. I replied by posting “We are fair at the CIP. Please encourage all police officers to attend CIP meetings to discuss allegations of misconduct against them and we will be fair with them also.” He has since blocked me from following him on twitter.

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