On June 30, 2011, Miami-Dade Police officers ambushed a band of robbers in the Redland, killing four -- including the cops' own informant -- in a fury of bullets without receiving a shot in return.
But when it came time to investigate the suspicious shootings, the agency leading the inquiry was none other than the Miami-Dade Police Department.
Yesterday, county commissioners voted to avoid such potential conflicts of interest by approving a deal for state investigators to look into MDPD shootings.
Under the agreement, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) will now investigate any fatal shootings by Miami-Dade Police officers.
County commissioners voted 9-2 Tuesday to approve the agreement, which cops and county officials have argued will increase transparency in Florida's largest law enforcement agency.
"It really is an effort to give the public a sense of third-party objectivity," Miami-Dade County Police Director J.D. Patterson told the Miami Herald. "It's always a good idea to have an objective third party from time to time if your integrity is questioned."
County Mayor Carlos Gimenez also backed the agreement as a way to bolster the community's trust in cops.
"I don't believe agencies should be investigating themselves," he told the Herald.
Although the investigating agency has changed, the ultimate decision on whether to charge officers involved in such shootings will remain with the State Attorney's Office.
"I think that it does create some more transparency," Nathaniel Wilcox of People United to Lead the Struggle told the Herald. "But I want to see how the process works. Historically, the state attorney always sides with police. And how honest will the FDLE be?"
The police-owned property in the Redland where cops lured the robbers June 30, 2011.
Michael E. Miller
It's too late to say what effect outside scrutiny would have had on the Redland shootings, but it could scarcely have hurt. Incredibly, MDPD's investigation into the incident remains open almost three and a half years later.
That investigation has also been heavily criticized. Only three of the 11 officers who fired their weapons spoke to the State Attorney's Office. And in a scathing report issued in March, prosecutors called the killings "greatly disturbing" but said they didn't have enough evidence to charge any of the cops.
Families of all four slain robbers sued the county. Three of those suits have now been settled for a total of $600,000.
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The lone exception is the family of Rosendo Betancourt, the police informant killed during the operation. That case appears headed for trial.