A high-ranking Miami police officer came under fire for not holding her hand over her heart during the Pledge of Allegiance at a Miami Police College ceremony in April.
Assistant Chief Anita Najiy was attacked by Fraternal Order of Police President Sgt. Javier Ortiz for what Ortiz called a lack of respect for the United States.
Ortiz also criticized Najiy based on rumors that she was Muslim, calling her act a political and religious statement. He implied that she was letting her reputed religion prejudice her behavior during times she was “supposed to be neutral.”
“If you’re not pledging allegiance to the United States, my question is what country are you pledging allegiance to?” Ortiz said. “Anyone who isn’t offended by that is not American, because when you become a U.S. citizen, you pledge allegiance to the U.S.”
Ortiz filmed (video below) Najiy standing at attention during the Pledge of Allegiance with her arms at her sides and circulated the video, titled “Anita Najiy disrespects the U.S. Flag. No respect for America,” on social media on April 17. On April 20, he wrote a letter to Chief Rodolfo Llanes, asking that Najiy be disciplined and removed as commander of the department’s Honor Guard.
The department’s police code does allow for reprimand if an officer fails to salute the flag, but makes no statement regarding an officer not covering his or her heart. In addition, part of the code of conduct for U.S. military personnel, which supersedes the police's code, states, “when in uniform, indoors, stand at attention, remain silent, and face the flag.”
The Miami Police Department agreed with this interpretation and stated that Najiy had followed proper protocol during the ceremony.
In the wake of Ortiz’s attack, Najiy gained support from fellow officers. The Miami Community Police Benevolent Association (MCPBA) released a statement criticizing Ortiz’s antics and supporting Najiy.
"Racism cloaked in patriotism is a huge insult to the American flag, the city of Miami Police Department, and the countless hate and anti-Muslim filled rants generated by the recent antics of the FOP president; those two things seem to be the genesis of the current false controversy," wrote MCPBA president Ella Moore in the statement.
Ortiz expressed frustration that the department decided against punishing Najiy.
“I had false hopes that the MPD [Miami Police Department] would address the issue at hand,” said Ortiz in a public letter. “Assistant Chief Najiy practices in the Muslim faith. The MPD apparently is afraid to address this.”
Najiy, who had been the first woman promoted to Assistant Chief in the City of Miami Police Department, has declined to discuss the issue with the media.