Miami-Dade Police Department releases letter to community amid protests

Black Lives Matter protesters marched on Saturday at Florida International University in Miami-Dade County. (Copyright 2020 by WPLG - All rights reserved.)

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – As protesters continue to call for racial equality and an end to police brutality following the death of George Floyd and many others, the Miami-Dade Police Department released an open letter to the community Monday to let the public know that they value their concerns.

The letter includes an outline of the department’s policies regarding use of force and can be read in full below:

The Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) hears and values the voices in our community that have called for police reforms and accountability. As such, we want to update our community on where we stand on various issues and policies that have come to the forefront of this important conversation.

Ban Chokeholds & Strangleholds:

The MDPD does not teach or utilize strangleholds or chokeholds. Each officer is instructed on the usage of the Applied Carotid Triangle Restraint which is a non-lethal application. Every officers’ proficiency in this maneuver is tested and documented bi-annually during the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Recertification training.

Require De-Escalation:

The MDPD already has policy and training on de-escalation, for both Crisis and Conflict situations. Our officers are trained to only use the reasonable amount of force necessary to complete an arrest.

Require Warning Before Shooting:

The MDPD has policy and training in regards to the use of force. The policy states that officers may encounter situations requiring the use of force, both non-lethal and lethal. During these situations, the use of force is necessary to control situations, effect arrests and protect public safety. Control may be achieved through advice, warning, persuasion, or by physical force. The decision to resort to force and the degree of force to be used must be based on the totality of the circumstances confronting the officer at the time, judged from the perspective of what actions would be taken by a reasonable officer on the scene faced with similar facts, or what reasonably appears to be fact, to the officer at the time the action is taken. An officer may use that force which he reasonably believes is necessary to prevent serious physical harm, either to the officer or to others.

Exhaust All Alternatives Before Shooting:

The MDPD recognizes the value of human life and is committed to respecting the dignity of every individual. Accordingly, the sanctity of human life is central to the Department’s mission, policies, training and tactics. The use of deadly force is the most serious action in which a police officer may engage. The authority to carry and use firearms in the course of public service is an enormous responsibility. Respect for human life requires that, in all cases, deadly force be used only as a last resort. Above all, the safety of the public and officers must be the overriding concern whenever the use of deadly force is considered.

Duty to Intervene:

The MDPD has policy on an officer’s duty to intervene. This policy is specific to seeing another officer using force that is clearly beyond that which objectively reasonable. In addition, each trainee that goes through the Basic Law Enforcement Program receives training and the Department’s expectation of intervention if and when excessive force is being used. This instruction includes scenario based training and application where the trainee is subjected to situations where they witness an excessive use of force and/or conduct unbecoming an officer. They are mandated to take action and stop these acts from taking place.

Ban Shooting at Moving Vehicles:

The MDPD has a policy on shooting at moving vehicles. The policy states that police officers are prohibited from discharging their firearms at a moving vehicle unless a person in the vehicle is imminently threatening the officer or another person with deadly force by a means other than the vehicle itself. The only exception is an apparent act of terrorism where the vehicle is being used as a weapon.

Require Use of Force Continuum:

A use of force continuum is a standard that provides law enforcement officers and civilians with guidelines as to how much force may be used against a resisting subject in a given situation. However, the continuum models are not based in law and in fact may be in conflict to what would be considered “objectively reasonable” by the legal standards of today. There is no possible way that any continuum model can provide for an entire set of circumstances in each very unique situation. As a result, The Miami-Dade Police Department has developed a policy by taking the standards set by State and Federal law and further restricting them to insure an officer only uses the force deemed reasonable to complete an arrest.

Require Comprehensive Reporting:

The MDPD has policy on the reporting of use of force incidents. The policy states that the incident will be documented each time an officer acts in an official capacity on or off duty, regardless of whether an arrest is made. The reports are reviewed by the officer’s chain of command and subject to Internal Affairs Investigation if force is deemed unnecessary.

Additional Information:

The MDPD sets the standard for many departments around the world. Our policies and training have been incredibly successful, and it is displayed by the very low percentage of instances that an officer has to use force to resolve a situation. The MDPD handled 642,151 calls for service in 2019, and our officers only used force 288 times. (.04%.)

We take a great deal of pride in recognizing that our Department reflects and serves one of the most diverse communities in the United States, and make every effort to serve all persons in a dignified and courteous manner, and exhibit understanding of ethnic and cultural diversity, both in our professional and personal endeavors.

While we have come a long way through the years, we realize that there is more work to be done and we are committed to working in partnership with our community to be the model law enforcement organization in the nation by being responsive and blending strategic planning with community concerns.