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DOJ Finds That Miami Police Dept. Violates Fourth Amendment

The Department of Justice conducted an investigation and found that the Miami Police Dept. (MPD) engages in a pattern or practice of excessive force with respect to firearm discharges, in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Section 14141.  On July 9, 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice, Civil Rights Division, submitted its report to the Honorable Tomas P. Regalado Mayor, City of Miami, Florida, and Chief Police Manuel Orosa, City of Miami Police Department.

Miami Chief of Police, Manuel Orosa

Miami Chief of Police, Manuel Orosa

This is the second time that the Department of Justice had cause to investigate the Miami Police Dept. in about a decade.   The current investigation commenced on November 16, 2011, after MPD officers fatally shot seven young African-American men during an eight-month period spanning 2010 and 2011.

Like the 2002 investigation, the current investigation also arose during a wave of corruption allegations involving sworn MPD officers and supervisors, including allegations of extortion and obstruction of justice.

Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General wrote:

“Among other findings, our investigation uncovered a number of troubling MPD practices, including deficient tactics and supervision, as well as significant delays and substantive deficiencies in deadly force investigations.”

In its 14-page report, the DOJ found that shooting investigations fail to adequately analyze and explore facts to determine whether a shooting is justified.  The report outlines many of the cases that the DOJ investigated and highly criticized the MPD’s poor tactics and its failure to timely and thoroughly investigate officer-involved shootings, including where one officer is involved in multiple shootings.  The DOJ report expresses that they are troubled by the delays in MPD investigations.  The MPD appears to first wait for the State’s Attorney to investigate and during that time, does not require those officers involved to prepare written reports of the shootings.  The DOJ found that the practices of the MPD in delaying investigation renders disciplinary action impossible.

Seven officers participated in over a third of the 33 officer-involved shootings reviewed by the DOJ.  All seven officers intentionally discharged their weapons at individuals on multiple occasions over the course of four years. One officer discharged his weapon in four separate incidents during a three-year period, resulting in three deaths.  Another officer fatally shot two suspects in separate incidents within a two-week period, and both of those investigations are still pending after more than two years.

The DOJ noted that from 2010 and 2011, 17 officers were discharged from duty.  Four of the 17 involved officers have since been arrested, indicted, or convicted of crimes unrelated to their on-duty shootings.

Since the DOJ opened its investigation and conducted on-site debriefings, the number of officer-involved shootings decreased to almost half of the total for each of the preceding four years.

The DOJ is hopeful that they can collaborate in the immediate future to craft and implement court-enforceable remedies to correct what they have identified.

DOJ Report on Miami Police Dept., 7-9-13


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