MIAMI — It was dueling big-top shows in downtown Miami on Friday.
Ringling Bros. was at AmericanAirlines Arena. The tightrope act was a few blocks away at Miami police headquarters, where a large and expectant crowd looked on as tottering Chief Miguel Exposito tried to hang on while taking a new shot at City Hall's ringmaster, Mayor Tomás Regalado.
Vowing to end the "long, drawn-out novel'' of political turmoil set off by the intensifying public rivalry, Exposito appeared to do just the opposite, telling a packed news conference that he had turned over to the FBI what he called "evidence'' of mayoral meddling into police operations targeting illegal gambling. The FBI declined to comment.
Longtime city observers will be forgiven for thinking they've seen this show before.
More than once, in fact.
For most of the past 25 years, cop-vs.-civilian infighting -- tinged by more than a hint of paranoia and conspiracy -- has undone all but a handful of what has been a revolving door of Miami police chiefs.
Many of the chiefs themselves have often proved willing to engage in the scrapping, in a department whose leadership has been at times divided by shifting allegiances to different politicians.
Secret police dossiers on elected officials. Back-channel communications between police underlings and commissioners. Use of police to investigate opponents. Pressure to hire political favorites. Surveillance of city leaders.
All have been alleged over the years, if not often proven.
And some of the same participants pop up time and again, including former Mayor Maurice Ferre, former Commissioner and Mayor Joe Carollo, and Regalado and Exposito, once allies and both seasoned veterans of the city's treacherous cop-civilian politics.
Now, Regalado, citing his own police sources, has alleged Exposito had him and city commissioners under surveillance, a claim the chief denied on Friday.
To the gathered reporters, curious police officers and representatives from the state attorney's and mayor's offices, Exposito explained: Regalado and his driver had been dodging a process server who was trying to deliver a letter from the chief.
The chief did not take questions.
But the spectacle appears to be already wearing thin with Exposito's boss, new City Manager Tony Crapp, a longtime Regalado aide.
Crapp said he had not made any decision about the chief and his job.
"It's just time to get down to the business of the city, and no more distractions,'' Crapp said. "I'm tired of residents and employees dealing with distractions.''