Jose Seiglie, Miami PD's investigations chief, is biased in police shooting inquiry, activists say

As black Miami simmers over seven fatal shootings in seven months by City of Miami cops, you'd think Chief Miguel Exposito's priority would be convincing the community he's serious about investigating the deaths.

Yet Exposito quickly lost credibility by getting in a tit-for-tat with State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle over the MPD's delays in providing records for prosecutors.

Now some observers say Expo's own internal investigation is tainted.

The assistant chief whom Exposito placed in charge of investigations is none other than Jose Seiglie, a cop whose last job was overseeing the gang unit that shot and killed three suspects.

"Maybe Jose Seiglie is an honorable guy who can investigate these shootings independently," says Jeanne Baker, a committee chair for the Miami ACLU. "But as the former head of a unit involved in several shootings, the perception is too strong that he has a conflict of interest."

Seiglie, a soft-spoken, balding veteran, joined the force in 1977. He's well acquainted with unrest in Miami's black neighborhoods. In 1982, he was on the scene shortly after an officer shot and killed Neville Johnson in an Overtown arcade, sparking mass riots. A video played at the trial of the officer who killed Johnson showed Seiglie with his gun drawn, facing down an angry mob outside the arcade.

Seiglie later rose to the rank of major, and in March 2010, Exposito promoted him to command the newly created Tactical Operations Section, a "proactive" anti-gang unit.

Under Seiglie's watch, Officer Ricardo Martinez killed two suspects in nine days last August. Martinez was then arrested months later and pleaded guilty in January to trying to fence 100,000 stolen Bluetooth headsets.

Then in February, another of Seiglie's gang-unit charges, Det. Reinaldo Goyo, shot and killed Travis McNeil. Goyo had played a starring role in an embarrassing reality TV promo where he bragged about his similarities to Miami Vice's Crockett and Tubbs.

Seiglie was named head of the Criminal Investigations Department in November, making him the top dog over the ongoing investigations into the seven shootings.

Through a department spokesman, Seiglie declined to comment for this story.

The ACLU has sent a letter to the city asking that Seiglie be removed from overseeing the inquiries, a request echoed at a commission meeting last month by family members of the men killed. Baker says Seiglie's past makes him unsuitable for the job.

"Perception is very important in cases like these, and the perception is that Seiglie is far too professionally close to the men involved in these shootings to be an unbiased investigator," she says.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink

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