When Charles Kinsey, an unarmed behavioral technician assisting an autistic client, was shot by a North Miami Police officer last summer, critics immediately assailed the department's training procedures. Those cries only intensified when news broke that North Miami had recently lost its state accreditation in part due to problems with training its cops.
"As the parent of a child with autism, I strongly suggest you implement some training," one father said in a message left on the department's complaint hotline.
"Y'all need to revamp your training practices. This is crazy," one woman said.
Six months after Kinsey survived the shooting, the city is now prepared to shell out $84,000 for a professional review of the police department's use-of-force and crisis-intervention training. Last night, city commissioners voted to approve a contract with the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a well-respected D.C. think tank that does research on policing.
Councilman Scott Galvin tells New Times the move is part of a larger attempt for the department to regain state accreditation, which it lost last May after receiving abysmal marks from state compliance assessors.
"We had, unbeknownst at least to the city council, lost our state accreditation somewhere in the month before the Charles Kinsey shooting," Galvin says. "It was sloppy things, really; that was my interpretation of it. There was a sort of lackadaisical attitude that maybe crept in once we had the accreditation."
Over the past 15 years, PERF has worked with many South Florida law enforcement agencies, including Miami Beach Police, West Palm Beach Police, and both the Broward and Palm Beach County Sheriff's Offices. The group also prepared reports for Ferguson, Missouri; and Baltimore, Maryland, after the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray.
North Miami's agreement with PERF provides for a four-month review of the department's use-of-force and crisis-intervention training. Beginning early this year, the team will meet with police to go over its list of 30 guiding principles for use of force, which was released last year. The group will also interview Chief Gary Eugene and his senior command staff to see how officers are trained and expected to perform. A final report, identifying areas of needed improvement, will be prepared by May.
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Galvin says the department is seeking not only reaccreditation from the state but also federal accreditation.
"We want to not just be getting back to where we were, but doing better," he says. "They've had some autism training and a series of different things to make sure that doesn't ever happen again."
A civil lawsuit against Jonathan Aledda, the officer who shot Kinsey, is pending in federal court. A status conference is scheduled to take place this morning, and Kinsey's attorneys indicate they plan to add the City of North Miami to the suit as early as January 20, six months after they filed
Despite multiple attempts, New Times was unable to reach anyone at the police department for comment. Likewise, PERF did not respond to an interview request.