A Cop Comes Clean

For ex-Miami officer Bill Hames, the truth finally trumped friendship

Campbell still marvels at the stats they compiled. In one sixteen-day period they racked up 48 felony arrests; in more than half they caught robbers in the act. But their hard-charging tactics involved numerous altercations. "I took a step back and decided this was not a good future for me," Campbell says. "I could see that times were changing and people didn't want to hear about violent cops. Whether I agreed or disagreed, the public was against that style of police work. I didn't want to give up police work and I didn't want to go to jail, so I decided to go into investigations. I didn't want to become a victim of that conflict between police culture and the greater community culture."

Campbell continues: "I tried to convince Bill. I told him: 'Listen, we get into too many fights, we shoot our guns too much, we need to stop.' He didn't want to hear it. He felt that if every use-of-force was justified, then it shouldn't matter if one person has fifty and another person has two. I told him I didn't think that was realistic. He was very idealistic that way. He tended to see things in black and white."

Campbell went on to lead the homicide unit. Hames, for the most part, stayed on the street. He paid a price for that decision.

Bill Hames (left) with John Campbell: The arc of their careers tells the story of the Miami Police Department
Bill Hames (left) with John Campbell: The arc of their careers tells the story of the Miami Police Department

On the night of November 7, 1995, Hames and several other officers shot and killed two of four fleeing men they'd seen commit a smash-and-grab at the I-395 entrance ramp downtown. Department guidelines at the time allowed officers to fire at suspects if they'd just witnessed a violent felony. Still the officers allegedly brought two guns to the scene and planted them on the two slain men, apparently to forestall public outcry. Hames later lied to investigators by claiming he saw guns in the suspects' hands when he fired. He didn't.

The matter lay dormant for years. During that time Hames, who always drank heavily, allowed his alcoholism to overcome him. His police career ended in 1998 when he confronted a bus driver during a traffic dispute. Hames, who was drunk, threatened to shoot the driver. He was forced to resign.

Not long afterward Hames and the other officers involved in the I-395 shooting received a "target" letter from the feds essentially inviting them to come talk. "Bill called and said, 'What do you think I ought to do?'" Campbell remembers. Both men were retired by then. "I knew in my heart, but I had to ask him: 'Can they indict you for something?' And he said, 'Yes.'"

At the time of that conversation Hames had already gone through Alcoholics Anonymous, where it was impressed upon him that he must take responsibility for his actions. "Bill was trying to live up to this," Campbell says. "We talked about that. Also Bill told me, and I believe him, that he has felt guilty about lying about that gun ever since it happened. It was just wrong."

But Hames struggled with the prospect of incriminating his colleagues. Who would claim his loyalties: the justice system or fellow cops? When he couldn't make up his mind he decided to go with the truth. Says Campbell: "He took to heart that the truth speaks for itself and will just have to do. Bill made his decision in the evening, he called me and said, 'Okay, I'm going to cooperate.'" Campbell says he was proud of him. "He told me later that was the first night in weeks he slept well."

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