The police practice of blowing away suspects is under heightened scrutiny in the city where cronies often rule and the dead sometimes vote. Two weeks ago the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Guy Lewis, announced that federal investigators have begun a lengthy review of the Miami Police Department in light of federal cases against cops indicted for using deadly force unnecessarily, planting guns near victims' bodies, lying to investigators, and other sins. Moreover, sometime later this year the city commission is expected to select a twelve-person Civilian Investigative Panel to delve independently into specific allegations of police misconduct. While insight into the dark side of the force that serves and protects has yet to come into view, the CIP selection process has already yielded an unexpected glimpse into the soul of Miami government. It comes via a list of several hundred prospective panelists cobbled together by city officials. In other words, VIPs for the very important CIP.

The VIP list has popped up at what is probably the most delicate stage in the formation of the CIP: the search for applicants. The CIP, overwhelmingly authorized by voters in a referendum this past November, will have the right to subpoena witnesses and recommend punishment. It will be one of the most powerful such committees in the country. The much larger Miami-Dade Police Department dodged a CIP bullet two weeks ago when county commissioners voted to kill a proposal for a similar panel. One of the most persuasive arguments made by CIP opponents, at the city and county levels, was that such a body would unnecessarily inject politics into the serious matter of police misconduct. For that reason, one would expect city officials involved in creating Miami's CIP to ensure that all the i's were dotted and all the t's crossed.

This past April, as required by the CIP ordinance mandated by the referendum last fall, Mayor Manny Diaz and the city's five commissioners appointed fifteen men and women to come up with twenty-four candidates for the CIP. The CIP Nominating Committee first met May 7 in a carpeted banquet room at the Hyatt Regency in old downtown Miami. They voted unanimously to conduct all interviews in public forums. Several members expressed concern that soliciting specific individuals might jeopardize the integrity of the nominating committee. At a May 21 meeting they crafted an announcement for the CIP openings. That is also where the VIP list surfaced.

The list, consisting of names and addresses for 420 individuals and organizations from North Broward County to South Miami-Dade, was prepared by the city's Office of Professional Compliance. The OPC, housed at the Model City police station on NW 54th Street, is a poorly staffed entity responsible for reviewing complaints against police officers after the department conducts its own investigations. OPC staff, who report to City Manager Carlos Gimenez, compiled the list from names submitted by the city attorney's office and the thirteen Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET) administrators, those men and women who act as liaisons between the municipal bureaucracy and the public. Earlier this year the city clerk's office had used the list to send out notices to prospective members of the nominating committee. OPC staff member Carol Abia brought it to the nominating committee at the May 21 meeting in what we can only describe as a pristine state.

Who is to say, for example, that the city shouldn't send a CIP application to Camilo Padreda, former Latin Builders Association president, Republican fundraiser, and general contractor convicted in 1990 of defrauding the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development? After all, don't convicted felons involved in dubious construction projects have a vested interest in police misconduct?

Or who is to say that instead of sending applications to 58 Baptist churches from Hollywood to Homestead, the city should mail them out to 70 or 80 churches?

Or that two fellows named on the list as "José Cancola" and "Hank Adamo" aren't as worthy as Radio Unica president José Cancela or Hank Adorno, über-attorney of el exilio? Maybe there really is a lawyer named David Price at an upstart firm named "Ernat & Young," just like the guy with the same name at Ernst & Young. Why not send an application to a certain someone at the "Bells Mcade" Homeowners Association, as well as to the one in Belle Meade? Or to a member of American Legion Port 29. Why not mail one to Haydee Regueyra, adminastor of the Northeast Coconut Grove NET office? Or for that matter to the venerable mayor of Miami Beach, "Neisen Kaadin." He's still running the place, right, Mayor Dermer?

More important, who is to say the city shouldn't heap applications on seventeen "community leaders" from the Grosse Pointe Highlands area and six members of the Wynwood Homeowners Association and overlook their rivals or counterparts in other neighborhoods? (Numerous other VIPs appeared more than once on the list and would thus receive two or three forms when the document was converted into address labels.) And shouldn't a gaggle of real estate agents and big-time real estate developers, such as Harvey Taylor, Ronald Kohn, and Philip Yaffa, be asked to apply over bus drivers and sanitation engineers?

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Kirk Nielsen
Contact: Kirk Nielsen

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