The city of Miami Civilian Investigative Panel conveys its profound appreciation for the thoughtful and probing investigation conducted by U.S. Assistant Attorney General Thomas E. Perez into the practices and procedures of the city’s police department that led to the unprecedented rash of police-involved shootings under the former police administration.
It is encouraging that the report noted that Manuel Orosa, the current chief of police, has initiated positive changes to policies and procedures to rein in the problematic undercover tactical teams and to improve the investigation of police-involved shootings.
The questions that now must be answered are: How do we bring about a better police department and where do we go from here? A case-specific overview of the problems and shortcomings of the department is an essential starting point in the quest for improvement.
Such an endeavor, however, is not an end unto itself. Fundamental, substantial cultural changes need to be implemented throughout the department. To this end, the department should welcome community involvement; including civilian oversight.
Over the years, the CIP has made numerous proactive recommendations to the department that simply fell on deaf ears. Such recommendations have included: installing dashboard cameras in all patrol cars (interestingly, a significant number of the shootings currently being investigated would have been captured on video); installing GPS-enabled computer systems in patrol units; improving upon police work-sheet preservation; and sharing with the CIP a tracking system regarding the intake of Internal Affairs complaints.
In stark contrast to his predecessors, Chief Orosa is more accepting of some of these suggestions, particularly the dashboard cameras. After all, factoring in the deterrent effect that monitoring has on aberrant police officers’ behavior, it is not too far of a logical leap to conclude that a miscreant officer will not engage in misconduct if he knows the interaction is being recorded for later review by a supervisor.
The CIP hopes to participate in a meaningful way in the settlement contemplated by the Justice Department and the city for judicial oversight of the police department.
Thomas A. Cobitz, chairperson and Bess McElroy, vice-chairperson, CIP, Miami