Uncle Luke: How to Reform the Police in Miami | Miami New Times


Uncle Luke: A Seven-Point Plan to Reform Police Departments

With public sentiment on the black community's side, now is the time to force changes to laws protecting corrupt police officers.
Scenes from a May 31 protest in Miami against the killing of George Floyd. See more photos from Sunday's protest here.
Scenes from a May 31 protest in Miami against the killing of George Floyd. See more photos from Sunday's protest here. Photo by Atena Sherry
Share this:
George Floyd's killing at the hands of white Minneapolis police officers has touched off a peaceful revolution that even Donald Trump and his dwindling MAGA cult can't stop. The protests are only getting bigger despite the president and every local, state, and federal law enforcement agency in the U.S. using violence and intimidation to shut down Americans from peacefully assembling against systemic racism.

A recent poll found two-thirds of Americans believe Trump has increased racial tensions with his "law and order" promise to "dominate" the protests in Washington D.C. and across the country. Even 29 percent of Republicans believe Trump has made things worse. A majority of Americans, conservatives and liberals, believe the cops involved in Floyd's killing should go to prison and that cops treat white people better than black persons. That so many Republicans are not OK with allowing police officers to get away with murder is a good sign.

And it's not like there aren't Democrats who side with the cops and implement racist police agendas that mostly hurt people of color. For instance, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle has never prosecuted a cop for causing an on-duty death of an unarmed black person despite having several opportunities to do so throughout her 26-year career.

With public sentiment on the black community's side, now is the time to force changes to laws protecting corrupt police officers from accountability and serious prison time. Here's what needs to happen:

1. Ban campaign contributions and endorsements from police unions. It's a conflict of interest for politicians, especially candidates for sheriff and state attorney, to accept support from groups that protect dirty cops.

2. Amend or get rid of qualified immunity. This is the legal doctrine that shields government officials, especially those in law enforcement, from being sued for hurting citizens while on the job unless it is "clearly established" that they violated someone's constitutional rights. Rundle and prosecutors around the country use qualified immunity as an excuse not to aggressively pursue criminal charges against cops who kill in the line of duty.

3. Police officers who are fired for any type of misconduct automatically lose their pensions and their law enforcement certification. There is no reason taxpayers should pay for the retirement of a cop who violates the law and people's rights. Taking away their certification ensures they don't get reemployed by other law enforcement agencies.

4. Officers who are terminated for violating a person's rights or for causing injury or killing an unarmed person can never own a firearm again. Collective bargaining agreements should also require officers to undergo sensitivity training and psychological evaluations twice a year.

5. Every municipality and county must have a police community oversight board like the City of Miami's Civilian Investigative Panel that can investigate officer misconduct and present public findings to police chiefs for disciplinary action and the filing of criminal charges when an officer is caught breaking the law.

6. Increase the cap that municipalities and counties have to pay when settling wrongful death claims brought by the family members of individuals killed by police. The state currently mandates up to $200,000. There's a bill proposing an increase to $500,000. It should be $1 million. Cops should also be forced to pay part of the settlement and take out insurance policies to cover it.

7. Repeal Stand Your Ground laws. It gives white people a license to indiscriminately kill black people and claim self-defense. The laws also allow black criminals to claim self-defense when they get into a shootout with rivals in the hood. In 2017, a group of teens involved in a shootout during a Martin Luther King Jr. parade used Stand Your Ground to escape being charged for attempted murder.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1
KEEP NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls. Make a one-time donation today for as little as $1.