TRUEDIVA TALK

NAACP Wants Miami Police Investigated For Killing Black Men

In February 2011 on February 28, 2011 at 7:27 am

MIAMI-The NAACP is requesting that a civilian panel investigate the killing of eight black men in the past ten months.

The Miami Herald reports:

Meanwhile, the ACLU presented a letter Tuesday to the city’s Civilian Investigative Panel, listing dates and names of the men killed by police between July 2010 and February 2011 and one killed by a Miami-Dade police officer. They said the number of shootings is disproportionate when compared to larger cities such as New York City, in which the population is 20 times larger than in Miami. New York City had just eight police-involved shootings in 2010.

“The people in our community deserve to know that every unit of government that has a role with regard to these issues is fulfilling its responsibility to address these urgent matters,” said the letter signed by ACLU Executive Director Howard Simon, Curry, ACLU Attorney John DeLeon and past NAACP President Brad Brown. The letter goes on to say, “There is now a crisis in the Miami Police Department and it is resulting in the death of black men.”

A civilian panel with subpoena power will review the shootings of eight black men in the inner city by Miami police over the past 10 months.

BY CHARLES RABIN

Pressure to review seven Miami police-involved shooting deaths of black men dating back to last summer intensified this week when the American Civil Liberties Union and the NAACP asked a civilian panel that wields subpoena power to weigh in on the controversy.

Local NAACP President Victor Curry, following the police-involved shooting death of Travis McNeil last Friday, called on the Florida attorney general to intervene and asked U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson. D-Miami, to write a letter to the Justice Department. Curry has also contacted the Rev. Al Sharpton, the well-known civil rights activist, to urge him to visit Miami and lead a community rally. No date has been set for a visit and rally.

Meanwhile, the ACLU presented a letter Tuesday to the city’s Civilian Investigative Panel, listing dates and names of the men killed by police between July 2010 and February 2011 and one killed by a Miami-Dade police officer. They said the number of shootings is disproportionate when compared to larger cities such as New York City, in which the population is 20 times larger than in Miami. New York City had just eight police-involved shootings in 2010.

CRISIS MODE

“The people in our community deserve to know that every unit of government that has a role with regard to these issues is fulfilling its responsibility to address these urgent matters,” said the letter signed by ACLU Executive Director Howard Simon, Curry, ACLU Attorney John DeLeon and past NAACP President Brad Brown. The letter goes on to say, “There is now a crisis in the Miami Police Department and it is resulting in the death of black men.”

The city’s CIP was given almost unprecedented powers a decade ago following a series of questionable police shootings and cover-ups. The public overwhelmingly voted to create the semi-independent authority to look into police misconduct allegations. Its 13-member board is comprised of nine members appointed by city commissioners, three by the mayor and one by the police chief. At the time, Miami was one of only five cities nationwide in which the civilian panel had subpoena powers.

Over the years the authority has recommended actions ranging from changes in policy, changes in findings and reinterviewing witnesses for dozens of cases. In recent years, however, the CIP has been plagued by budgetary problems and an inability to seat all 13 members as commissioners haggled over the makeup of the panel.

Currently there are 11 members on the panel, which meets at City Hall. The panel does not recommend discipline, and its findings are forwarded to the police chief, the city manager and the city’s five commissioners.

Generally, the committee tries to stay out of the way of active investigations. “We can do simultaneous investigations,’’ said interim director Carol A. Abia. “But it depends on many issues the state attorney may be looking at. We certainly don’t want to jeopardize ongoing criminal investigations.”

Miami police, city administrators and some members of the city commission have struggled with how to deal with seven shooting deaths in the past seven months. The mayor and at least one commissioner have called for the dismissal of police chief Miguel Exposito. The city manager — who ultimately could decide the chief’s fate but has promised to study the circumstances before taking action — has brought in a retired FBI chief to review the department

Though the State Attorney’s Office has not completed its investigations of the shootings —in some cases those investigations could take up to a year — at least two of the deadly shootings involved unarmed men: Travis McNeil and DeCarlos Moore. McNeil died last week in Little Haiti; Moore died in an Overtown shooting in July after allegedly disobeying a police order and returning to his car.

TROUBLED AREAS

The five others shot and killed by Miami police are Joell Lee Johnson, Gibson Junior Belizaire, Brandon Foster, Tarnorris Tyrell Gaye and Lynn Weatherspoon. All were killed in Overtown, Little Haiti or Liberty City. The ACLU also is asking the panel to look into the January shooting of Johnny Simms, who was shot and killed by Miami-Dade police officer Oscar Plasencia, after Simms gunned down two county police officers.

Miami Commissioner Richard P. Dunn II, who has been battling Exposito in a push to finish the shooting investigations, welcomed the ACLU move.

CIP Attorney Charles Mays said Wednesday he found the ACLU complaint “well founded,” and said he plans to send a letter to the state attorney to make sure the two don’t step on each other’s feet if there are simultaneous investigations.

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