MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – The case involving the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis at the hands of police brings more scrutiny to how law enforcement officers face discipline. State law and union contracts provide protection for officers. On Wednesday, a panel of black community leaders recommended changes to better protect the community from abuse of force.
“It set back law enforcement ages. All the hard work, the blood, sweat and tears that has been done to bridge the community, that one criminal act has set us back," Freddy Ramirez, Miami-Dade police director, said.
At the first meeting of the Miami-Dade Black Affairs Advisory Board since the police situation in Minneapolis created protests all over the United States, including many in Miami, the focus was on policing the police and turning protests into action.
"If we’re going to talk about how we drive solutions, we must first understand how pervasive the problem is," Dwight Bullard, South Dade NAACP, said.
By the end of the meeting, they had formulated a list of recommendations.
- Civilian Oversight Boards like the city of Miami has, but the County defunded.
- A tracking mechanism for "rogue" officers.
- Changes to the state’s police “Bill of Rights,” the Florida Statute that outlines the rights and processes afforded accused law enforcement officers. Unlike in Minnesota, a Florida police officer involved in a death on Monday would likely not be fire on Tuesday and charged by Friday.
"I've heard from several chiefs, their hands are tied, they cannot because of policies in place, summarily fire those officers. In Dade County today what happened to that officer in Minnesota could not happen because they could not fire that officer right on the spot," Ruban Roberts, Miami Dade NAACP, said.
The head of Miami-Dade County’s police union defends improving relations with communities and holds up a list of two dozen entities that currently do have the power to investigate police officers.
"The Bill of Rights only pertains to administration portions. That doesn't keep officers from being arrested," Steadman Stahl, president of the Miami Dade Police Benevolent Association, said.
We ask Stahl if he would advocate that the county's civilian process return.
"If there was a need for it, yes, but now I don't see a need for it," Stahl said.
Police union contracts with the department also have a lot of sway with the discipline process. The list of recommendations that the board came up with Wednesday would next be submitted to Miami-Dade County for review.