In 2012, Miami-Dade County Police asked for $6.8 million to spend on guns, ammo, radar equipment, armor, and other accessories over five years — about $1.36 million per year. In 2016, Miami-Dade County Police said it needed more money, and received a $4.3 million funding boost to its "prequalification pool" for "law enforcement equipment and supplies," The department said it needed the extra supplies to boost an "aggressive hiring plan", but had already burned through the $6.8 million in the pool. Last July 6, the county commission approved that funding bump, MDPD eventually ended up spending the entirety of its $11.4 million cash-pool over the last five years. That's an average of $2.28 million per year.
Now, MDPD says it's spent up that extra $4.3 million, and is now is asking for even more money in that same pool of resources for the next five years.
"As of this date, a majority of these funds have been disbursed for purchases, and our Fiscal Administration Bureau has pending purchases that are projected to consume the balance by the end of the contract term on September 30, 2017," MDPD spokesperson Alvaro Zabaleta said Friday via email.
This time, the department says it needs a an extra $12.5 million through 2022, nearly twice what it was originally supposed to spend over the last five years, and roughly 10 percent more than it actually spent in that time period. Its yearly spending-average will swell again to $2.5 million per year.
"Police requested $12,500,000 in additional expenditure authority to purchase ammunition, guns, rifles, and tactical equipment, such as protective gear, ballistic shields, and helmets," the funding request to the county reads. "The Department is hiring officers and conducting at least four (4) to six (6) basic law enforcement classes per fiscal year. With the increased number of classes, the level of stock for standard-issued equipment must be increased."
The grand total will have jumped from $6.8 million to $23.9 million, four times the size, but that total will have stretched over a 10-year span instead of five.
The funding request will be presented at the county's next commission meeting July 6 (exactly a year, to the day, after the last funding request was approved). The county's Public Safety and Health Committee signed off on the request at its meeting last Wednesday.
The police department's money would be drawn from two sources: the county's general fund, which comes from taxpayer money, and the Law Enforcement Trust Fund, which is filled with cash taken from residents using civil forfeiture rules. Civil forfeiture, it just so happens, might be the shadiest process in all of law enforcement: Cops can legally seize any money and property they suspect was used during a drug crime, but in practice, this mostly means police can take small amounts of money from poor, mostly minority suspects and give them virtually zero chance to fight for that money back. A person doesn't even have to be charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime to have property seized via asset forfeiture. It's essentially legalized theft.
But serious questions remain as to why the department says it needs that much money, especially given the litany of other equipment upgrades it's requested. In the past year, MDPD has applied for multiple controversial surveillance tools, including:
- ShotSpotter, a microphone system that listens to gunshots, which MDPD itself abandoned once before after claiming the system didn't help make anyone safer. But the department asked for more than $5 million to use it again without telling city commissioners it had tested the technology.
- License-plate tracking technology, which privacy activists such as the American Civil Liberties Union have warned is an ever-increasing presence on state and local roads.
- A "wide-area surveillance" system of airplanes capable of recording an entire neighborhood or small city's movements from the sky at any time, which local residents, national civil rights groups, and the ACLU of Florida fought hard to stop MDPD from implementing. After New Times broke news of the surveillance plan, MDPD dropped its application for the program this week. The technology has been used to track Iraqi insurgents.
In fact, the county's crime rate has not been this low since the 1960s. Given that information, the county needs to tell the public why it ought to go on a hiring binge rather than concentrate on demilitarizing its police force and building better relations with the community while crime rates remain historically low.
Correction: This piece previously misstated the total amount of money MDPD plans to spend over the next five years.