- Associated Press - Wednesday, March 19, 2014

MIAMI (AP) - A new administrative policy bans police officers from taking their guns next time they attend a Miami city commission meeting unless they are assigned to City Hall or handling a call.

The Miami Herald (http://hrld.us/1osRDrZ ) reports the new rule follows a protest in February where dozens of officers who belong to the police union stormed the chambers during a commission meeting. The officers were protesting what they described as unfair cuts to their benefits.

Officers will now have to check their guns at the door before entering the chambers.

“The demonstration opened everybody’s eyes into the potential for security concerns in City Hall,” said Police Chief Manual Orosa.

Orosa and Mayor Thomas Regalado said city employees and others attending the meeting were concerned that the officers were armed.

In a department-wide email, Orosa called the protesters a “mob” that left city staffers “in fear for their safety.”

The chief said he implemented the new policy because the officers brought fire arms into the chambers for “no apparent reason.” The rule only applies during public meetings.

Regalado said he doesn’t believe the officers would endanger the commission or public by brandishing weapons.

“These are professional people,” Regalado said. But he backs the police chief’s no-gun policy, saying it should have been implemented years ago.

“It’s not less than what the federal court does, what federal buildings do,” the mayor said. “When you’re not on duty, you leave your weapon in a locker or somewhere else. There’s no conspiracy here.”

Javier Ortiz, president of the Fraternal Order of Police and the organizer of last month’s protest, questions the policy.

“We are very disappointed that the police administration would trust us with a firearm in a citizen’s home, but they won’t trust us with one in City Hall,” Ortiz said.

The group plans another protest outside City Hall on March 27, when the commission meets again. He says some officers may make their opinions known in the chambers.

“There was no one in harms’ way,” he said of the February incident. “Yes, some of (the officers) did get emotional, but restricting our firearms will not make us stop expressing our voice.”

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