Charles Kinsey, the latest unarmed African-American man to be shot by a police officer, filed a lawsuit against North Miami Police this week after a cop’s bullet tore a hole through his leg July 18. Video footage of Kinsey lying on the ground with his hands in the air, pleading with officers not to shoot him or Arnaldo Rios, a 26-year-old autistic man, has kept police-involved shootings in the spotlight.
“It’s not about me, and it’s not about Arnaldo either,” Kinsey said at a news conference. “It’s about our country and how we’re struggling right now.”
Indeed, we are at a standstill when it comes to excessive and deadly use of force by police. There is no accountability for cops who act recklessly, abuse their badge, and violate citizens’ constitutional rights. As an eyewitness to the Miami race riots of the 1980s, I’m afraid we are one police shooting away from civil unrest that leads people to set fire to everything from Miami Gardens to Wynwood.
The Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office hasn’t prosecuted a single officer involved in questionable shootings in nearly 30 years. The last cop to face a jury was William Lozano, whose 1989 conviction for manslaughter after he fatally shoot a black man was overturned on appeal.
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In recent years, police departments have enlisted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to handle police-involved shootings. But a recent analysis by the Daytona Beach News-Journal found that of 249 police-involved shooting cases in 2013 and 2014 investigated by local law enforcement agencies, including the FDLE, only one resulted in charges being filed.
Even when the U.S. Department of Justice steps in, convictions against bad cops are rare. In 2003, four former undercover Miami police officers were convicted and received short prison sentences for their roles in covering up questionable police shootings by lying and planting guns. But the most recent DOJ investigation into 33 Miami police shootings from 2008 to 2011 — which included the killings of seven black men and teenagers — resulted in no criminal charges being filed.
The way things are going, Miami is one cop killing away from black people burning down Wynwood, Midtown, and Edgewater. I don't want to see that happen to my city.