Arguing that the Miami Police Department has come a long way since a rash of deadly police-involved shootings, Chief Manuel Orosa has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to reconsider its decision to have a federal judge oversee the department.
Orosa, in response to findings last month that Miami engaged in an unconstitutional “pattern or practice” of excessive use of force, suggested that the Justice Department instead consider collaborating with the police department to forge changes.
Miami should not pay for the “sins” of its previous leaders, Orosa said in an Aug. 6 letter to Justice, laying much of the blame for the shootings on his predecessor, Miguel Exposito. Orosa said Justice should consider suing Exposito personally, as opposed to the department.
“It is my recommendation that if the USDOJ aims to seek sustainable remedies for our nation’s law enforcement agencies, it should hold those leaders personally responsible for their actions and accountable through civil action,” he wrote in the letter, obtained by the Miami Herald through a public records request.
In an interview Tuesday, Exposito called Orosa’s suggestion “ludicrous.”
“Nothing he says people can take seriously,” he said.
Exposito issued his own detailed rebuttal to Justice in an Aug. 8 letter to U.S. Senators Marco Rubio of Florida and Ted Cruz of Texas. The former chief defended his tenure and asked the Cuban-American Republicans to request a Senate inquiry into the Justice investigation, which Exposito blasted as slipshod.
The Justice Department’s 18-month investigation probed 33 police shootings between 2008 and 2011, including ones that killed seven black men in the inner city. The feds concluded that, in addition to the three shootings the police department had found to violate policy, an unspecified number of additional shootings involved excessive force.
Officers in five of the seven shootings have been cleared by the Miami-Dade state attorney’s office.
A similar Justice investigation into police shootings more than a decade ago did not find excessive force but rather deficiencies with Miami’s investigations. Citing significant improvements in following years, federal authorities closed that probe in 2006 without a formal agreement.
But Justice was forced to return to Miami five years later, beginning its latest investigation in November 2011. And now the agency seems unlikely to let the police department slide with only a warning.
“They were embarrassed,” Orosa acknowledged in an interview Tuesday.
The next step is for the feds to draw up a list of needed reforms to be overseen by a federal judge in Miami.
A court-appointed monitor, including a compliance unit within the police department to track the reforms, could cost the city from $1 million to $6 million a year, Orosa estimated, contending that a monitor should be required only when a department is unable or unwilling to undertake its own policy changes.
“We’re a poor city, and we don’t have that money,” he said. “We have demonstrated that we can fix ourselves.”
He pointed to changes instituted since he took over the department in September 2011, including scaling back plainclothes tactical teams whose members took part in many of the shootings.