By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By David Villano
By Jose D. Duran
By Michael E. Miller
By Allie Conti
By Kyle Swenson
By Luther Campbell
If the PBA is an army, its warlord is Rivera. The man is a thug, a bare-knuckled street brawler who'd sooner die than pass up a good fight. And I mean that with all due respect, because I like Rivera. The members of his union pay him to be a thug -- to be their thug in the political arena. Miami-Dade politics isn't for lightweights, and Rivera's punches land hard. As a result most county commissioners, as well as the mayor, try to avoid conflicts with Rivera and the PBA, especially on the issue of subpoena power for the IRP.
"John Rivera is a major factor," agrees Teele. "The PBA is so much more engaged in the political process than their counterpart in the city, the FOP [Fraternal Order of Police]. The PBA stays in touch with commissioners, and they have a very strong voice."
Rivera admits he was dismayed that the FOP and its president, Al Cotera, didn't challenge efforts to create a civilian panel with subpoena power. "The FOP just chose not to fight," he sighs. "I'm so baffled by that."
In recent months Rivera has gone out of his way to attack the executive director of the IRP, Eduardo Diaz. "We don't care for the guy," grumbles Rivera. "He comes off like he is righteous and he wants to be fair to everyone, but he doesn't. He just wants to go after cops. He wants subpoena power in the worst way." (Diaz says he is used to Rivera's rhetoric.)
The IRP recently voted to move forward with a proposal that seeks subpoena power. Whether the county commission and the mayor will be willing to tackle the issue isn't clear. Last year Diaz says he met with representatives from Mayor Alex Penelas's office to review the IRP's plan to adopt subpoena power. One of the first questions he faced: Do you have the votes?
Diaz says the question was disheartening. Whether he has the commission votes or he doesn't, the issue should be discussed. "The political leadership in this county has to assume responsibility for its own actions," he admonishes. "They are going to have to realize that there are more votes in the community than there are [votes] controlled by the PBA."
But that's a warning few are likely to heed. Even several of the black county commissioners seem cautious about expanding the powers of the IRP, which currently cannot compel witnesses to appear and testify before it. Commissioner Dennis Moss wants to wait and see how the city's CIP operates before pushing for changes in the county. "I've not taken a position yet on subpoena power," he says.
Commissioner Dorrin Rolle supports granting subpoena power to the IRP but isn't sure of the timing or how such a proposal will be received by his fellow commissioners. "If this shooting reaches the point where the public doesn't accept the results of the [police department's] investigation, then I think we will be moving in that direction," he says.
Rolle acknowledges that the PBA has "tremendous clout on an issue like this." The trick will be rallying the public if the police investigation turns into a whitewash. Predicts Rolle: "If the public feels there are issues being swept under the rug, I think the outcry from the public will erode the power of the PBA."
But if the department's internal investigation is challenged only by the black community, the efforts to increase IRP power could be seen solely as a "black issue." Will Rolle have any support among his Cuban-American colleagues? "If the Cuban Americans on the commission feel we just want it because it's a black issue -- well, that's not true," he responds. "It's for the betterment of the whole community. Right now it's true that black men are being shot. But that can easily turn around and it can start being whites and Hispanics who are being shot."
As I said, unless that happens, nothing will change.