While Orosa agreed with the Justice Department’s concern that Miami’s policies and practices remain consistent in the long run, he wrote to the feds that he hoped to collaborate with them on remedies without a court-enforced mandate, known as a consent decree.
As an alternative, Orosa in the Herald interview cited a study published last month by the Police Executive Research Forum, a Washington D.C. think tank, that examined civil-rights investigations of local police departments.
The study suggested that, as a less adversarial and cheaper way to address shortcomings, the Justice Department’s office of community oriented policing services (COPS) could work with local police to develop reforms, as it did with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department last year.
It’s unclear whether Justice would agree to that sort of request from Miami, considering its civil rights division thought it necessary to spend a year and a half investigating. Unlike the COPS office, the civil rights division has the power to sue police departments if its recommendations are not implemented. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.
Orosa disagreed with Justice’s finding that Miami “engages” — in the present tense — in a “pattern or practice” of excessive force, and with the feds’ contention that the department contributed to “egregious” delays of deadly-force investigations. Some of his criticism coincided with Exposito’s.
Both men called the federal authorities’ report vague because it did not specify which shootings involved excessive force. That makes it difficult to address which tactics, if any, were poorly employed by the officers involved, as the Justice Department found.
Orosa and Exposito also noted that the police department conducts timely investigations of officers involved in shootings but often cannot complete them quickly because Miami-Dade prosecutors get first dibs at trying to interview the officers and deciding whether to file criminal charges. Several investigations into whether officers followed policy when discharging their firearms remained open more than three years, Justice found.
“Their arguments are really, really weak,” Exposito said Tuesday. “If they go in front of a federal judge with the information they have, I can’t see a judge forcing the city into some kind of contract.”
Exposito further argued that Justice failed in its review by not noting how many officers from other law-enforcement agencies were involved in shootings inside the city’s borders — and by not interviewing him, despite his expressed intention to cooperate with investigators. According to Exposito, the feds also did not interview his predecessor, John Timoney, who was hired in late 2011 to train police in Bahrain.
“The Justice Department investigators violated the most basic principle governing the investigative process: to seek all available sources of information and obtain as many facts or as much data as possible from them,” Exposito wrote.
He described the investigation as politically motivated in part by Miami Mayor Tomás Regalado, whose public clashes with Exposito over arrests involving video-gaming machines known as maquinitas ultimately cost the police chief his job. And Exposito called the reforms highlighted by Orosa as “window dressing” that merely repackaged existing policies.
“It’s policies that we had that we did not abide by,” Orosa countered, adding that some of his changes were, in fact, new.
Orosa said he considered many of the feds’ concerns directed not at policies unchanged since they were written before the Justice Department left town in 2006, but rather at the people carrying them out.
To that end, Orosa noted that the department has changed its policies to prohibit future police chiefs from making wholesale changes to the command staff — a move made by Exposito that federal authorities questioned in their meetings with Orosa.
“Unfortunately, none of these concerns was mentioned in the Findings Letter,” Orosa wrote.
Miami Herald staff writer Jay Weaver contributed to this report.