Miami Police still covering up details of disastrous gun buyback for Ukraine

By most accounts, the Miami Police Department’s highly touted GUNS 4 UKRAINE gun buyback was an epic failure.

The event, which was held June 18 at city hall and involved more than 40 on-duty police officers, yielded only a dozen or so rusty guns.

A Similar buyback held Saturday by Tampa Police produced more than 1,000 firearms.

During the event, Miami Police tried their best to cover up their failure.

They still are.

When it became obvious things were starting to fizzle, police pushed onlookers back from the site where the buyback was taking place a total of eight times, until they were more than 150 yards away.

The department even used vehicles and bicycle cops to block the public from seeing what was or what wasn’t going on.  

Our reporter estimated Miami officers “bought back” about 12-15 firearms. Most were cheap handguns or ancient single-shot or bolt-action shotguns and rifles. There were a few homemade firearms too, but no modern sporting rifles were seen – certainly nothing battleworthy enough to ship to Ukraine as city officials had promised the public.

Miami Police Chief Manuel A. Morales later claimed his officers bought back 68 firearms, and a video published on the department’s Facebook page shows ARs, AKs, an M1 carbine and even a 9mm Israeli Uzi sub-machinegun.

While it is easy to understand how some Miami officers would sprinkle a few extra guns from the property room onto the media table so the department leadership wouldn’t look like total imbeciles, it is highly unlikely officers would falsify official documents just to bail out the brass.

Falsifying property receipts or any other official paperwork is a crime, even in Miami.

Therefore, for our coverage we chose to rely not on Facebook videos, but on official police documents generated during the event.

One week ago, we sent the department an official public records request seeking copies of “all documents that contain a description of the firearms recovered Saturday at the GUNS 4 UKRAINE gun buyback.”

Unlike the federal government’s tedious and lengthy Freedom of Information Act, Florida’s open records laws have teeth.

Government agencies have to comply in a reasonable amount of time, not the months or years that a federal FOIA request can take. Florida’s Public officials know they can be removed from office and even prosecuted if they screw around with the public’s right to know.

As of today, Miami Police have not responded to our request. This morning we sent a follow-up:  

Dear Sir or Madam,

One week ago, I emailed a public records request seeking copies “of all documents that contain a description of the firearms recovered Saturday at the GUNS 4 UKRAINE gun buyback.”

Other than an email acknowledging receipt of the public records request, I have received no response to my request. 

Therefore, if I do not receive a response by close of business today, I will be forced to take appropriate actions. 

However, I sincerely hope you are good stewards of your residents’ taxpayer dollars and will comply with state law. 

You are a law enforcement agency, after all. 

Thanks in advance for your consideration of this request.

The department’s Public Records Center acknowledged receipt of the follow-up email, but they tried to date the request for today, not June 20 when the original records request was sent.

“The Miami Police Department acknowledges the below public records request dated 6/27/2022. The City of Miami will make a reasonable effort to determine from other officers or employees within the City whether such records exist and, if so, the location at which the record can be accessed or copied or if any exemptions apply. You will be notified accordingly.”

This is not an uncommon tactic when a government agency needs more time because it has something to hide.

“This request is a week old. It was sent on 6/20, not 6/27. I expect this to be clarified,” we replied.

Shipping guns to Ukraine illegal 

In what amounts to a classic bait and switch, Miami city officials told the public that the guns “bought back” by police would be sent to the Ukrainian army for use in their war against the Russian military.

However, shipping firearms to a foreign country without proper export license violates federal law, specifically the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, known as ITAR, and in a written statement provided as a response to this series, Miami officials have admitted they do not have any export paperwork.

Shipping guns to the Ukraine also violates Florida Statute 790.08, which regulates what police can do with firearms or other weapons that come under their control.

Basically, they can use the weapons, loan them to another law enforcement agency, destroy them or sell them, but the statute requires them to deposit all money raised from the sale into the state treasury earmarked for the benefit of the State School Fund.

The statute does not allow them to ship the arms to a foreign military.

We will continue to pursue this series and will publish any additional responses we receive.