MIAMI, FLORIDA — Miami Police Department is using a squad car wrapped in rainbow colors and the text “LGBTQ+” and “PRIDE” written on the side. The vehicle is being used for conducting official police business, according to a statement provided to Fox News by the department.
The cruiser is piloted by Miami PD’s LGBTQ+ liaison officer. It has been in use since June 2021 and the wrap was donated by a private citizen – Enrique Santos – a Miami radio personality and the President and Chief Creative Officer of iHeart Latino.
According to Fox News, the Miami Police Department claims that the vehicle “is a show of solidarity for the LGBTQ+ community.”
LACK OF TIMELY RESPONSE
The Florida Standard reached out to Miami Police Department and Mayor Suarez’s office for comment but was not able to receive a timely statement. In fact, the Department’s public information officer claimed that it would take a week or even longer before a statement could be provided.
The Florida Standard also had to clarify that the questions were not directed to the Department’s LGBTQ+ liaison officer – but to the decision makers who approved the use of the vehicle in regular law enforcement activities.
USED AT TRAFFIC STOP
A Twitter user posted a video of the vehicle during what appears to be a traffic stop.
The response was mostly negative, with one person commenting: “This is taxpayer money being used to advance an agenda.” Another one tweeted: “This screams ‘you will be treated differently based on your sex, gender, skin color, sexual habits, etc.’”
The general understanding is that a public institution like a police department is supposed to adhere to rules of impartiality – that is, not take any official political, social or cultural positions. Some have stated that the police department’s use of LGBTQ+ messaging on the vehicle is unconstitutional. But a legal expert tells The Florida Standard that this is not the case.
Dr. Lyrissa Barnett Lidsky holds the Raymond & Miriam Ehrlich Chair in U.S. Constitutional Law at University of Florida.
“The government has the right to engage in what’s called ‘government speech’ under the First Amendment – which means that the government can promote certain agendas in order to try to convince and persuade people,” Dr. Lidsky explains.
According to Dr. Lidsky, people tend to think that what may be a poor policy choice also is illegal or unconstitutional. She says it’s important to separate the two.
“I think it’s highly important for the police to maintain the practice and appearance of impartiality, and people can criticize things that depart from that as being unwise. But from a legal aspect, it only becomes an equal protection violation when you indicate that you’re going to treat different categories of citizens differently. And the Constitution recognizes certain categories of people as having this special protection,” Dr. Lidsky tells The Florida Standard.