Miami’s police chief says the city’s 1,300-member department has met every standard under a new community policing agreement signed with the U.S. Department of Justice in the wake of a spate of shootings that roiled racial tensions.
So what does the city’s independent, $150-an-hour monitor think about that?
Few know, and no one is saying.
Nine months after the city and federal government came to terms on the hard-fought compact, the consultant hired to look over the department’s shoulder is way behind schedule. Though her first public report was to be issued July 10, and her second in November, former Tampa Police Chief Jane Castor has yet to publish a single review stating her opinion of the department’s progress.
Castor, who by all accounts is already interviewing police, reviewing data and visiting training sessions, filed only a final methodology explaining how she’ll go about her job this month. She wasn’t officially under contract until this week — a fact the city of Miami acknowledged Thursday, two months after the Miami Herald requested the document.
Castor and Miami’s city attorney say they’re being judicious, and no one is dragging their feet. But the paucity of information about progress under the federal policing agreement is creating some frustration.
“There’s been a lot of work and I can certainly understand the concern of anybody who has an interest in this process that a date has come and gone,” Castor told the Miami Herald. “But we want to ensure especially that the first report meets everyone’s expectations. Not necessarily the outcome, but the process itself.”
Miami police have been under the requirements of a federal policing agreement since the compact was signed March 10. The agreement was the product of a Department of Justice investigation that began at the request of Mayor Tomás Regalado in 2011 after a review of 33 police-involved shootings and determined in 2013 that cops had engaged in a pattern of excessive force when it came to pulling the trigger. The shootings involved the killing of seven black men in an eight-month stretch spanning 2010 and 2011.
The policing agreement, which lays out requirements for training, supervision and investigations, among other issues, largely acknowledges that Miami police proactively made their own changes. It was reached out of court, leaving it free of the scrutiny of a federal judge — which makes Castor’s job as independent monitor all the more important.
In her role, Castor is key in determining whether the department has complied with the goals set out by the Justice Department by 2020, or earlier if Miami police prove they’ve made the necessary strides, as they say they have. If they haven’t, the agency can file a complaint in federal court to extend its supervision.
“Basically the monitor is a referee or a fact-checker that we are not lying to the DOJ,” explained Police Chief Rodolfo Llanes, who says his department has fully complied with the federal compact.
Castor was chosen after much wrangling by the city over the potential cost of a monitor. She is working as an individual, whereby other cities under federal review, such as Cleveland, employ a team. She spent the week in Miami interviewing police officials, observing trainings and reviewing data. She said she submitted a draft of her first report some time ago, but it has not yet been finalized.
Castor, who is bound by the federal agreement from making statements about the department’s progress outside of her reports, declined to discuss its contents. But she said “everyone in this process has been very open, transparent and forthcoming.”
The Department of Justice declined to comment, referring questions to Castor, who said she hasn’t received any pressure from the DOJ or the city to speed up the process.
“I’m not concerned because I know the police department has been doing what it needs to under the agreement,” said City Attorney Victoria Méndez. “And [Castor] has been doing her job.”
Some, however, are privately growing frustrated at the pace, and more so at the lack of information. It took the city of Miami more than two months to respond to a Miami Herald records request and acknowledge that Castor had not submitted a public report. Evian White, chairwoman of a community advisory board created under the requirements of the federal policing agreement, said she learned that Castor had not yet finished her first report when informed by a reporter.
White said communication remains one of the challenges facing the board, which she said “is laying the foundation to be a meaningful conduit of information, concerns and feedback from the community.”
“The [Community Advisory Board] gives the public an unprecedented seat at the table when it comes to the City of Miami Police Department. This is long overdue,” she said in a statement, adding: “The [board] still needs much work and has to overcome many obstacles.”
Castor plans to speak with the board during its next public meeting, which will be held 6 p.m. Monday at Shenandoah Park, 1800 SW 21st Ave., Miami. She also expects to begin meeting soon with members of the community.
“My impression is that everyone is working toward making the Miami Police Department the best organization that it can be,” Castor said.