Now's Your Chance to Weigh in on Miami-Dade's Police Oversight Board

Will Miami-Dade commissioners approve a police oversight panel?
Will Miami-Dade commissioners approve a police oversight panel? Photo by Miami-Dade Police Department
click to enlarge Will Miami-Dade commissioners approve a police oversight panel? - PHOTO BY MIAMI-DADE POLICE DEPARTMENT
Will Miami-Dade commissioners approve a police oversight panel?
Photo by Miami-Dade Police Department
Amid national calls for increased police accountability, local community leaders have championed a proposal to bring back a civilian-led oversight panel to investigate complaints of misconduct against Miami-Dade police officers.

The proposal has had its ups and downs. Twice in the past two years, commissioners have narrowly approved the Independent Review Panel, and twice County Mayor Carlos Giménez has vetoed the measures.

During next Monday's county commission meeting on August 31, the panel is getting one more chance. County residents can speak during a public hearing, and commissioners will give the measure a final vote.

If approved, the board would be renamed the Independent Civilian Panel. Its 13 members will have the authority to investigate and review allegations of misconduct against Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) officers and use-of-force incidents resulting in death, disability, disfigurement, or "great bodily harm." Members would be allowed to inspect all closed MDPD internal affairs files.

The panel wouldn't be able to discipline officers, but members could recommend discipline. The panel could also make recommendations about police department policies, procedures, training, and recruitment.

Any of Miami-Dade's 34 cities also could ask the county panel to investigate complaints against its officers.

The proposed measure says panel members could, by majority vote, issue subpoenas for witnesses, documents, and evidence related to investigations as long as the oversight board's investigation didn't interfere with active investigations by other agencies.

The panel's subpoena power became a point of contention during previous commission meetings. Giménez said he believed the panel's subpoena powers could be used for politically nefarious purposes and opposed the possibility that county employees could be called to testify in an investigation against a police officer.

Although commissioners last month voted 8-5 re-establish the panel, Giménez exercised his veto power. Commissioners Audrey Edmonson, Sally Heyman, Eileen Higgins, Barbara Jordan, Daniella Levine Cava, Jean Monestime, Dennis Moss, and Xavier Suarez voted yes. Commissioners Esteban Bovo, Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Joe Martinez, Rebeca Sosa, and Javier Souto voted no.

The commissioners who voted no say they believe the panel is an anti-police measure. Those who voted yes say the panel provides an avenue for citizens to report misconduct outside of internal affairs, which police-reform advocates say overwhelmingly clears law enforcement of wrongdoing.

Commissioner Barbara Jordan, who sponsored the ordinance to revive the panel and for years has advocated for civilian oversight of police, previously said she would compromise on some of the subpoena powers so the mayor would allow the measure to pass.

The ordinance commissioners plan to vote on next week excludes county employees from being subpoenaed. But the panel would still have the ability to subpoena witnesses, documents, and evidence.

Anyone looking to speak during the meeting can register in advance or call in live at 305-375-5777. The meeting starts at 9:30 a.m., and pre-registration for live comments closes at 10 a.m. Meetings are livestreamed on the county website and the Board of County Commissioners' Facebook page.
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Alexi C. Cardona is a staff writer at Miami New Times. A Hialeah native, she's happy to be back home writing about Miami's craziness after four years working for Naples Daily News.
Contact: Alexi C. Cardona