Concerned with how county police probe shootings by their own agencies, the county's mayor and top prosecutor are finalizing an agreement to have the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigate police shootings.
A spokesman for Mayor Carlos Gimenez said the final memorandum of understanding will likely be presented to county commissioners for approval in the fall.
Gimenez, who first proposed the arrangement in January, said he expects the police union and others will oppose the plan, but added "I’ve heard them yell and scream before and I do what I think is right."
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Mayor Gimenez will have a very powerful ally at his side if there is a fight, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle.
“I know that some may not be crazy about the idea, (as if proponents were) sort questioning the ability of existing homicide detectives, which I don’t question them,” Fernandez Rundle said. “I think they’re outstanding.”
"I would be lying to you if I told you that I didn’t have concerns about the Redlands investigation," Gimenez said.
Both Gimenez and Fernandez say solidifying their call for FDLE was the handling of the June 2011 botched home invasion in Redland, where Miami-Dade police killed four men, including their confidential informant.
“I thought that when this case came up; we were all very concerned,” Fernandez Rundle said. “As an office, the more we looked into this case, and I can tell you the struggles that we had as an office with this. It was very disturbing.”
Miami-Dade Police Director J.D. Patterson said he doesn’t think there is a problem with how his agency handles the shootings and the investigations, with officers investigating fellow officers. He is aware that some may perceive a conflict of interest with how things stand right now. He also said he will not oppose his boss, Mayor Gimenez.
“So, I do think that if this approach can minimize some of that tension,” Director Patterson said. “It’s not a bad thing and it’s not something that I think I would stand in the way of."
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As for the Redlands investigation, Patterson said he is awaiting results of a professional services bureau’s internal investigation.
“The bottom line for me is we want to get to the truth and if an officer made a mistake, the officer intentionally hurt someone because of their own fears or lack of training or whatever it is, those kinds of things need to be brought up and addressed,” Patterson said.
Gimenez and Fernandez Rundle also support equipping officers with cameras that record their interactions with the public. They said the tapes could also help officer who may be put in a bad light without the tape by showing the world why they had to do what they did.
Still, there is at least one hurdle that Gimenez and Fernandez Rundle will have to overcome, police union President John Rivera.
“We were the elite. When FDLE had situations that they couldn’t handle, they would come to us,” Rivera said. “So we are the elite and why…we would do that and we’re never had a problem so…there’s no…you know it’s sort of like you’re trying to fix the wheel that isn’t broken.”
When it comes to cameras, Rivera wasn’t enthusiastic about the proposal.
“A camera only captures a certain angle,” Rivera said. “I mean, I think these officers carry enough now. They’ve got more equipment than they need to. Now they need to start worrying about a camera? I mean that comes from people that just don’t know what they’re talking about.”