Miami-Dade Commissioners Deny Residents a Vote on Police Oversight Panel

Miami-Dade voters won't get to decide if they want a police oversight panel.
Miami-Dade voters won't get to decide if they want a police oversight panel. Photo by Miami-Dade Police Department
click to enlarge Miami-Dade voters won't get to decide if they want a police oversight panel. - PHOTO BY MIAMI-DADE POLICE DEPARTMENT
Miami-Dade voters won't get to decide if they want a police oversight panel.
Photo by Miami-Dade Police Department
Twice since 2018, Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos A. Giménez and several commissioners have opposed efforts to revive a civilian-led police oversight panel that would investigate complaints of misconduct against county law enforcement officers, arguing that the idea for the panel is anti-police and would add an unnecessary and undeserved level of scrutiny for cops.

Because of that opposition, commissioners Barbara Jordan and Daniella Levine Cava recently proposed amending the county's charter to include the Independent Civilian Panel, as the oversight board would be called. The proposal would let voters decide whether they wanted the panel to become a part of the charter, securing its permanence and insulating it from budget cuts to a degree.

But voters won't get their say on the matter. During a meeting yesterday, the commission failed to pass a measure to place the charter amendment on the November ballot. Had the measure been approved, voters would have been able to weigh in on the question:

Shall the county charter be amended to establish an Independent Civilian Panel as a charter entity with the authority to review county law enforcement policies, patterns, practices and closed internal investigations, conduct fair and independent investigations, alternative dispute resolution proceedings, and public hearings on complaints against county law enforcement, and issue written fact-findings, recommendations, reports, and evaluations as set forth by ordinance?
According to county rules, because the commissioners have already placed three charter amendments on the November ballot, adding another would require passage by a two-thirds vote.

The oversight-board measure fell one vote shy. Eight commissioners voted in favor: Jordan, Levine Cava, Eileen Higgins, Sally Heyman, Audrey Edmonson, Dennis Moss, Jean Monestime, and Xavier Suarez. Five voted against: Rebeca Sosa, Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Joe Martinez, Esteban "Steve" Bovo, and Javier Souto.

Diaz and Bovo said they opposed the measure because they and their constituents believe it's anti-police. Sosa took issue with the wording of the charter amendment text, in that it didn't include information about how much the panel would cost — despite the fact that a county attorney had explained at a previous meeting that ballot questions are character-limited and don't usually include budget information.

Jordan, who for years has advocated for bringing back the panel after it was defunded in 2009 during a budget crisis, said the commissioners were trying to "fool the community" about why they weren't in support of the oversight panel.

"You know and I know it's nothing but a smokescreen," Jordan said. "Don't make up excuses. I can respect honesty, but not subterfuge."
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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