With the press, the mayor and local activists nipping at his heels, Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito isn't backing down one bit, defending his officers as controversy swirls around the police-involved shooting deaths of six black males since last summer.
"They have asked us to go out there and do a job, they were concerned about violent crimes," Exposito said Tuesday. The request is heard often during community meetings.
Overtown residents and areas to the north have suffered greatly from drive-by shootings, cross fire deaths, gang shootouts. Fed up ministers, businessmen and educators have encouraged the police to take action. But when a gun-toting teen with a rap sheet as long as his arm points a gun at a police officer and gets killed in the process, there is an outcry.
The Chief does not curry the media and does not aggressively seek out reporters or TV cameras, but he did seem comfortable explaining why his officers do shoot and why he can't talk about the internal investigations that are eventually turned over to the State Attorneys office.
"We have a responsibility as a police department to make sure that people are safe and do everything with in our power to carry out that responsibility," he said. "We don't relish the fact that we get involved in these police-involved shootings. It is nothing we look forward to, something we avoid at all cost but when confronted by violent criminals that are heavily armed we have to protect ourselves. Our officers are out to protect the public but they are also out to protect themselves."
Chief Exposito explains and the State Attorneys office verifies that details of ongoing investigations cannot be discussed by a police officer or prosecutor. That's the law. It frustrates the family members of the dead young men who have died in the streets of Miami.
The Reverend Jerome Starling, who crusades for a more transparent process simply says, "he's got to go." It also galls Mayor Tomas Regalado, who fears unrest in the streets. Yet the mayor seems to understand the dilemma when he says, "We got to figure out what to say."
For now the Chief is not saying a lot except explaining the process which is likely to satisfy no one, including the Chief who says he'd like to clear the books as much as anyone else.