Commissioners on Wednesday decided to go a step further, and agreed to ask the International Association of Police Chiefs for a proposal and scope of work to audit the department’s policies on use of force and Tasers. A city committee will also review the proposal.
Police Chief Raymond Martinez said: “I support that 100 percent.”
“I feel very strongly that an independent review panel to look at completed investigations is almost what we have now, quasi-fair, with the media and with the public. Because these are public documents and these are public reports, and so they are scrutinizing our investigations to begin with, but not scrutinizing them, I think, fairly.”
The commission passed, however, on an immediate decision to implement a citizen’s review panel, and instead sent the idea to a city committee for review and discussion. The idea is not without its naysayers: It either goes to far, or not far enough, depending on the person asked.
Morales, the manager, said the city doesn’t propose to create a review board like the City of Miami’s, where citizens can lead investigations and drop subpoenas.
Bower said that having no subpoena power would render the board useless.
“I thought it was a BS thing about this board: You can’t subpoena. You can’t do anything,” she said.
She called for the U.S. Department of Justice to intervene, but didn’t get much support for that. Commissioner Ed Tobin said inviting the DOJ to look at the Beach’s cops would send the wrong message to the police force.
“That’s like telling them they’re criminals,” he said.
Bello, the union president, told commissioners he would urge the officers he represents not to testify in front of a review panel “whether you subpoena them or not.”
“I’m going to tell you right now, we’re not going to go. I’m not going to send my officers in there to testify prior to the opportunities that they get afforded to them by the Officer Bill of Rights,” Bello said.
The bill of rights is a state law that provides certain protections for cops accused of wrongdoing. Officers also have a right to file grievances, and have them heard by an independent arbitrator.
An independent arbitrator recently decided that Miami Beach Police Officer Frankly Forte should have his job back. Forte had been accused along with his work partner of beating up two gay men in a park. His partner also go his job back.
Bello said that was proof that the city had “rushed to judgment.” He said media coverage of the recent death of a teenager who had been shocked by a Taser was another example of that. He and commissioner Tobin have suggested the young man died because he was on drugs when he was shocked — not because of improper use of force or flawed policies.
“What we feel right now is you’re guilty until you’re proven innocent,” Bello said.