Amid a roiling national debate about police oversight, the Miami City Commission last night voted to take away Miami PD's ability to investigate its own police shootings. Instead, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will probe those deaths.
Miami's police union president didn't take the news quietly. Sgt. Javier Ortiz blasted commissioners in a two-page letter slamming them for spending more time talking about cops harassing public urinators than discussing a recent spate of murders.
"Miami cops aren't killing people," Ortiz writes. "Bad people in our community are killing our loved ones."
Ortiz frames his ire around the public urination issue, which came up during last night's meeting as commissioners discussed whether there's enough oversight of Miami cops. Commissioner Keon Hardemon discussed instituting a "written warning system" to cut down on arrests for the minor offense. Ortiz writes:
It is as if this commission belonged to a small city like from the Andy and Mayberry Show and our biggest crime is: PUBLIC URINATION. Are you kidding me? People are getting shot with AK-47s, yet we are worried about public urination.
Ortiz points out that six people have been murdered in Miami in the past week. Where's the outrage over that violence?
That's a very fair critique, but it's also a bit of a red herring. Hardemon might have gone way off point, but the larger issue of yesterday's discussion wasn't to solve Miami's rampant peeing-in-public problems. It was to talk about the legitimate issue of whether enough checks and balances are in place on Miami officers who use deadly force.
That's only a particular point of discussion, remember, because Miami PD is still under a Department of Justice civil rights investigation for a string of seven deadly police shootings in eight months a few years ago.
One officers involved in three fatal shootings -- Officer George Diaz -- is also one of the most frequent Taser users on the force, a recent New Times investigation found.
Where Ortiz really misses his mark, though, is in criticizing the "Black Lives Matter" movement that has grown in the wake of the Eric Garner, Tamir Rice, and Michael Brown cases.
We all have seen the BLACK LIVES MATTER signs in public, on t-shirts and all over social media. Police have been perceived by some media entities and race baiters as individuals that seek to kill people. While minorities are being killed in our city, it almost seems that unless they are killed by police, they don't matter. The last time I checked, we live in the United States of America where everyone is equal. ALL LIVES MATTER.
The Black Lives Matter movement began because of the vast statistical evidence that, when it comes to police-involved violence, they all too often do not. Young black men are nearly five times more likely to be killed by cops than any other group; African-Americans account for 26 percent of all police shootings despite being just 13 percent of the population, according to Huffington Post.
Of course all lives matter. And of course it's outrageous that six more lives have been lost to criminal gunfire in the past week in Miami.
But those are separate issues from the fact that cops can generally use deadly force with total impunity. The Miami Commission's move to at least let an outside agency probe police-involved deaths is at least one step toward better accountability.
Here's Ortiz's full letter: