Saying Miami-Dade’s police officers already receive enough scrutiny and oversight, Mayor Carlos Gimenez on Friday issued a rare veto and blocked reviving the county’s dormant review board for probing misconduct.
“The County already has numerous internal mechanisms and external entities that oversee and investigate complaints against any County employee or agency,” Gimenez wrote in his veto message, citing a range of government options from the FBI to the county’s office of Fair Employment Practices.
He also emphasized the role of his administration in scrutinizing police and other agencies. “There is no greater accountability measure than my own expectations of every single Miami-Dade County employee,” he wrote, “and that is why I will continue to hold all County employees and agencies accountable for their actions.”
Gimenez also cited the county’s $3 million body-camera program as providing new scrutiny of police.
His veto officially blocks a measure narrowly approved by the County Commission to revive the Independent Review Panel, a civilian panel that investigated complaints of police misconduct. It lost its funding in 2009 during a recession-driven budget crisis, and Commissioner Barbara Jordan’s effort to bring it back met with resistance from both the police union and the police department itself.
The county launched the panel after the McDuffie riots of the 1980s, sparked by the acquittal of four county police officers in the beating death of a black insurance agent. The effort to revive it comes during another stretch of heightened tensions between police and African-American communities across the country, following shooting deaths of unarmed black suspects by police.
Jordan said it made no sense to have the panel stay dormant, and her proposal called for a $750,000 yearly budget to revive the civilian board. “This is something the community wants and the community needs,” Jordan said before the measure passed on Feb. 6 in a 7 to 5 vote.
The commission needs nine votes to overturn a mayoral veto, so Jordan’s bill appears dead. Gimenez’s last veto was in 2015 over a baggage-wrap contract at Miami International Airport.
The ordinance would have populated the board with appointees from a string of outside organizations, including the American Civil Liberties Union, Haitian Women of Miami, and the Miami-Dade County Association of Chiefs of Police. While much of the debate focused on police complaints, the panel could investigate citizen complaints about any county employees.
The mayor wrote he could support a politically appointed board, with each of the 13 county commissioners able to fill a seat on the investigative panel. “Obviously, nothing precludes individual Commissioners from seeking appointee recommendations from community groups or organizations,” Gimenez wrote.