Two Months Before Charles Kinsey Shooting, Chief Resigned and North Miami Police Failed State Test

Hundreds of thousands of viewers have now watched a video of Charles Kinsey on his back with his arms in the air and asked, "How could police have shot this man?" A recent 14-page report from state inspectors might offer one hint.

The report, prepared May 23 by the Florida Commission on Law Enforcement Accreditation after a three-day visit to the North Miami Police Department, found numerous problems with training, record-keeping, and standards. The state team recommended that North Miami's cops withdraw from accreditation until they could fix all the problems. 

After the accreditation commission's inspection, but before the report could even be completed, then North Miami Police Chief Leonard Burgess resigned. Though city officials contend Burgess wished to spend more time with his family, the May 2 resignation indicates the intense state of disarray at the department. 

The current NMPD chief claims the problems identified in the report don't necessarily reflect on the shooting. He notes facts are still being gathered about Kinsey's case and defends his department's training policies. 

"It's too early to say there's any connection," Chief Gary Eugene says. "Do we have room for improvement? Maybe so. But of course the [Florida Department of Law Enforcement] is investigating, and if they find any information that our training was at fault, that will come out in their work."

The report is part of a semiregular process many forces in Florida voluntarily undergo. To be accredited, departments must pass a rigorous inspection of everything from weapons training to record-keeping.

A team of three evaluators — all of whom were officers from other departments — visited North Miami Police headquarters in April for three days. They almost immediately ran into problems. While inspecting the station's records, they found "multiple file maintenance issues which slowed the team's progress."

The inspectors write, "The assessment team worked with the agency to bring as many of their files into compliance in order to meet accreditation requirements. However, due to the length of time this took, it inhibited the assessment team from spending adequate time with personnel and reviewing agency facilities."

Over the next several days, the team found numerous other problems: One officer's Taser had an expired cartridge, and training on how to use the electronic shock weapons had lapsed two years earlier.

The department also wasn't following state rules on how to notify the community about sexual predators in the area, the inspectors found, and written policies on everything from take-home weapons to photo lineup procedures were flawed. 

In the end, the team recommended the agency stop trying to obtain accreditation until it could fix all the issues. "Due to the fact that many standards were uncompleted and inconclusive, the numbers of non-compliance or corrective actions were unknown," the report notes. "The team had made a recommendation to the Executive Staff to consider withdrawing from the process until all standards could be brought into compliance."

Indeed, the commission's website does not list NMPD among the state's accredited agencies today. 

"The North Miami Police Department withdrew from the accreditation process following their assessment and are no longer accredited with the commission," says Lori Mizell, the commission's executive director, who adds that withdrawing from the test is not a common move for a department. 

Eugene was sworn in as full-time chief July 12, less than a week before Kinsey's shooting. "As a newly appointed chief, I'm going to review everything, including our training policies going forward," Eugene 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