Entire Florida SWAT Team Resigns From Unit Over ‘Political Climate’

June 13, 2020 Updated: June 13, 2020

An entire South Florida police SWAT team resigned from the unit earlier this week after citing “safety issues” and the “political climate,” according to multiple reports.

Officers with the Hallandale Beach Police Department announced the resignation in a letter (pdf) dated June 9 to Police Chief Sonia Quinones, citing many issues for their resignations.

The 10 officers who resigned are eight officers and two sergeants. They are only leaving the SWAT unit and will not resign from the police force, and will remain on duty.

“The risk of carrying out our duties in this capacity is no longer acceptable to us and our families,” members of the team said in a lengthy statement. “The anguish and stress of knowing that what we may be lawfully called upon to do in today’s political climate combined with the team’s current situation and several recent local events, leave us in a position that is untenable.”

As soon as Quinones received the memo Tuesday, she set a meeting on Monday afternoon with the officers, City Manager Greg Chavarria said in a statement, according to news outlets.

“The chief will hear their concerns and collect their equipment. The City thanks them for their service,” the statement, obtained by news outlets. “While the voluntary resignation of our officers from this assignment is unfortunate, our residents should be assured it has not had any impact on our commitment to protecting their safety.”

The officers wrote in the letter the unit is “minimally equipped [and] under-trained” and had been “disrespected” by city officials who refused to address equipment and training concerns.

“Regardless, the team has continued to operate under these conditions with the growing sense of hesitancy. This hesitancy creates officer safety issues that cannot be ignored or overlooked,” the unit said. “The City Administration has shown a clear disdain for our agency and the team with their lack of willingness to provide adequate budgets to address the above mentioned equipment and training concerns.”

SWAT vehicle outside bank
A police officer stands near a Highlands County Sheriff’s SWAT vehicle that is stationed in front of a SunTrust Bank branch in Sebring, Fla. on Jan. 23, 2019. (Chris O’Meara/AP Photo)

The officers also said they were outraged that command staff had recently joined protesters and other officials in taking a knee as demonstrators called for the case of Howard Bowe to be reopened.

“This lack of support by members of the Command Staff is crippling to the agency and its rank and file,” the memo said.

Bowe, 34, was killed in 2014 by Hallandale Beach’s SWAT team as it carried out a search warrant and raided his home. The officers wrote that investigators never found that any misconduct had been committed by the officers involved in Bowe’s death. The case later resulted in a $425,000 settlement between Bowe’s family and the city.

The announcement from the SWAT unit comes as the United States is facing a high level of scrutiny and criticism following the death of George Floyd on May 25 while in the custody of Minneapolis police.

On Friday, Minneapolis City Council unanimously passed a veto-proof resolution to pursue replacing its police department with a “community-led public safety system.”

In a similar incident earlier this month, a special squad on the Buffalo Police department known as the Emergency Response Team resigned from their special posts. It came after two officers were suspended without pay when they were allegedly seen in a video pushing over a 75-year-old protester, who was hospitalized.

The two police officers were charged with assault and both pleaded not guilty to second-degree assault. They were released without bail.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.