But Exposito says Orosa is mischaracterizing his record; he says discipline findings dropped because the number of citizen complaints dropped during his tenure. He also accused Orosa of “taking credit for the cases that we began.”
“We were very aggressive with policing our own,” Exposito told The Miami Herald. Before becoming chief, “I was an Internal Affairs investigator and I was the commander of Internal Affairs. To me, that’s one of the most important things a chief has to stay on top of.”
Citizen complaints about police conduct have declined under Orosa, continuing a four-year trend, according to records compiled by CIP. The panel receives complaints directly and also reviews those filed first to Internal Affairs. Last year, the panel reviewed 200 complaints, down from 426 in 2008, records show.
But the ACLU’s Simon said the CIP’s performance has been “disappointing.”
“We all pinned a lot of hopes on the CIP,” he said. “They need to be more aggressive, more assertive.”
Orosa’s approach has also sparked union criticism. Sgt. Javier Ortiz, president of the Miami chapter of the Fraternal Order of Police, said the chief should focus less on punishing officers and more on improving training to prevent future misbehavior and improve morale.
Ortiz said he wouldn’t characterize Orosa’s statistics as “accomplishments.”
“Reprimands aren’t going to prevent a police officer from committing crimes,” he said. “Ride-alongs with Internal Affairs and radar traps don’t catch these bad apples. They just antagonize those that are doing the right thing.”
But others praise Orosa for being more open than his predecessors. Cobitz said the chief has been more responsive to the Civilian Investigative Panel, which reviews citizen complaints and recommends policy changes to the chief. The panel was created in 2001 after yet another police scandal involving more than a dozen officers accused of planting weapons at the scenes of police shootings.
“They are listening better now with the new chief,” Cobitz said.
The arrest of Dauphin — the first of several officer arrests expected in the next few weeks — comes at a sensitive time for the department. In addition to the gambling probe, the police department is also the subject of the Justice Department civil investigation of seven deadly police shootings in 2010 and 2011, all involving black men in the inner city. The shootings strained relations between the department and the black community.
In an effort to head off intervention from the feds, Orosa has already proposed a series of reforms, including dismantling a tactical team involved in multiple shootings and proposing an internal review board to oversee shootings, SWAT missions and car chases.
U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, D-Miami, who has been critical of the department’s response to the shootings, said more still needs to be done.
“A trustworthy police force is the bedrock foundation of the community,” Wilson said in a statement to The Herald. “This week’s arrest … demonstrates that we are still too far away from this ideal. I call on Police Chief Orosa to redouble his efforts to ensure that we have a diverse, respectful, honest police force that can relate to the people of Miami and serve and protect with integrity.”
Orosa may soon get that chance: The police department is hoping to hire as many as 150 new officers this year, as it loses many of its veterans to retirement.
Orosa said the department relies on a rigorous system of background checks — rejecting about nine of every 10 applicants — to weed out potential bad apples.
“We will get quality officers,” Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado said. “What we don’t want is to go back to the 1980s when we had the River Cops” — a reference to another notorious police scandal, in which Miami officers ripped off and killed drug dealers. The scandal was blamed in part on the department’s relaxed hiring standards at the time.
Ortiz offered another suggestion for thwarting discipline issues: Raise pay. Miami officers’ starting pay is in the 40s.
“You don’t see many of these problems in other police departments that compensate their employees reasonably and have higher standards,” he said. “You can’t hire the cream of the crop when you aren’t willing to pay for it.”