By Brett Gillin
The placement of an officer’s hand during a 23 second video is creating quite a bit of stir and spirited debate throughout the nation. This particular debate has nothing to do with use of force or body cams: instead, at issue is whether or not the officer properly respected the American Flag during a recent ceremony. The officer in question, Miami’s Assistant Chief of Police Anita Najiy, is the city’s highest ranking black, female cop, and an equal number of people are lining up to support her and call for her to be reprimanded.
The controversy began when Javier Ortiz, the President of the local Fraternal Order of Police, released a 23 second video on social media. This video shows a group of police officers and an honor guard, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance during a ceremony. In the video, each visible police officer is standing at attention, with their hand over their hearts, as they recite the pledge, save for Najiy. Najiy is seen with her hands at her side during the entire pledge.
This action led to Javier Ortiz sending a letter to Miami Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes, requesting that Llanes dismiss Najiy from her role as commander of the Miami Police Department’s Honor Guard. He also explained to reporters with The Washington Times that he believes that one of the issues in play is the fact that Najiy is a Muslim, and may have refused to salute the flag due to her religious beliefs.
“I had false hopes that the Miami Police Department would address the issue at hand. Assistant Chief Najiy practices the Muslim faith,” Ortiz told reporters. “The MPD apparently is afraid to address this. In the United States, you have the right to practice any religion and say whatever you want off-duty. When you’re in your police uniform, you are to be neutral.”
The Miami Herald added that Ortiz also cited a section of the Miami Police Department’s code of conduct, which states that punishment is permissible if “proper attention isn’t given during a flag ceremony.”
Miami Police Maj. Delrish Moss came to Najiy’s defense immediately, explaining that U.S. military code supersedes the city code in regards to the Honor Guard. This code states that military personnel are to face the flag, stand at attention, and remain silent during indoor ceremonies.
Many people immediately fired back at this statement, including Ortiz himself. “Sounds ridiculous doesn’t it? It is completely reckless to allow this behavior to continue. We aren’t in the military.” His point is echoed by many throughout the nation, who claim that the code does not cover police officers, and especially does not cover officers charged with heading up the Honor Guard.
The debate became a national one on Monday when Elisabeth Hasselbeck took to the airwaves and claimed a “right to know” the reasons behind the perceived disrespect for the flag, and whether or not it had anything to do with Najiy’s religious beliefs.
“It is our right to know why someone would opt out of [saluting the flag],” Hasselbeck said according to Raw Story. “How does that make you feel if that is indeed your district? Would you want to know?”
Joining in on Najiy’s side is the Miami Community Police Benevolent Association, which represents around 200 black city officers. In a letter obtained by The Miami Herald, MCPBA President Ella Monroe stated “Racism cloaked in patriotism is a huge insult to the American flag [and] the city of Miami police department.”
Najiy, a 32-year veteran of the police force, has thus far refused all requests for comment and interviews. There is no indication that the Miami Police Chief plans to take any disciplinary actions at this point, according to The Miami Herald, but as the debate rages on, that could certainly change.