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Posted by Robert
Rap News Network
3/30/2004 9:53:49 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Various Artists.

The Miami-Dade Community Relations Board on Wednesday asked the Miami and Miami Beach police departments to turn over a binder that contains information on hip-hop artists and their associates, including arrest records.

The public records request was the outcome of a board meeting called after publication of a Herald report on March 9 that revealed both Miami and Miami Beach police departments monitor rap artists and members of their entourage.

The Herald also reported that the New York Police Department had hosted a hip-hop training seminar, attended by several law enforcement agencies, at which a black binder was handed out.

The six-inch-thick binder, which was examined by Herald reporters, includes the arrest records and photos of dozens of rap artists and their companions.

Local rap artist and businessman Luther Campbell and others attending the CRB meeting, including the heads of the local and state chapters of the NAACP, said obtaining the binder was crucial to understanding police activities.

''We need to look at the book and see who has been surveilled,'' Campbell said.

Miami Beach police said a training manual it received from the New York Police Department is available for public view. They said they have already honored public records requests by the city's Black Host Committee and the media.

Miami Police Chief John Timoney acknowledged the binder's existence at a March 16 news conference. But Timoney and Miami Beach Police Chief Donald De Lucca have denied that their departments watch or take photos of rappers.

''There is a difference between conducting a surveillance and gathering information,'' said Lt. Mario Garcia of the Miami Police Department's community affairs unit.

''Surveillance is a proactive tool. There is an investigation and you follow someone around. You must differentiate between the two,'' Garcia said.

But the existence of a binder and some form of monitoring of the hip-hop industry remains troublesome, said members of the Community Relations Board and state lawmakers.

''If it can't be tied to any criminal intent or mischievous behavior then you are violating the privacy of those rappers,'' said state Rep. James Harper Jr., D-West Palm Beach, who participated in the meeting via a conference call from Tallahassee along with state Rep. Dorothy Bendross-Mindingall, D-Miami.

''We're likewise concerned about the effect it will have on the local economy and the image it's portraying,'' Harper said.

In a follow-up interview with The Herald, Harper said he does not believe the departments' denials.

''They've been caught with their pants down,'' he said. ``I don't believe they honestly expected anyone to find out about it.''

Harper added that if the police aren't keeping tabs or binders on any other groups then ``they are racially profiling and we have a whole other set of issues.''

The reports that police are focusing attention on America's most popular music has incensed civil libertarians and industry professionals.

''The police in Miami are aware of murderers and [drug] dealers walking the streets of Liberty City,'' said Russell Simmons, founder of Def Jam Records and the political action group the Hip-hop Summit Action Network, in a phone interview. ``Instead of surveilling them, they're surveilling the poets of our society. Why profile a music artist?''

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