Miami-Dade County commissioners voted Monday to move forward with establishing an independent panel that residents can use when they believe they have been victims of police misconduct.
In an 8 to 5 vote, the commission approved a move spearheaded by Commissioner Barbara Jordan to fund the panel. Jordan said that she removed the items that County Mayor Carlos Gimenez had opposed when he vetoed the panel earlier this summer.
In late May and early June, protesters had called for the panel to be established during marches. The American Civil Liberties Union also told the commissioners that 7,700 residents had signed a petition supporting the panel.
Gimenez added that the Miami-Dade Police Department already has civilian oversight from the commissioners themselves, but that he would abide by the agreement he had reached so the panel could be established.
Jordan thanked the mayor for keeping his word and not choosing to veto the measure.
In June, a vote by the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board showed symbolic support for establishing a citizen independent review panel to investigate police complaints.
In the City of Miami, which already has a civilian panel, 233 people have come forward to file complaints over the last 18 months. Violations were found in 56 of the cases, and 126 complaints resulted in no findings.
Miami resident Samuel Scott was arrested for allegedly filing a false report that his car had been stolen in 2018. Prosecutors ended up dropping the charges from the arrest.
Scott then filed a complaint with the Miami Citizens Investigative Panel when he did not receive his wallet back, which body cam video showed had been taken by one of the officers.
It was never determined what happened to the wallet, but the CIP found the officers violated the department's body camera policy by turning the cameras off and on, or not turning them on at all. Police found the same and gave them counseling.
"In all fairness, even though the citizens review panel are a step in the right direction, it's like monitoring traffic accidents verses preventing them," said Lyle Muhammad, one of the leaders of the Circle of Brotherhood.
"If you look locally and nationally it's a very, very small percentage of actions being followed up with the execution of law for officers found in violation."
John Quick, the lawyer for the Miami CIP, shared some findings on the effectiveness of the panel with the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board.
"I did the calculations about a year or two ago and they sustained allegations against police officers about 12 percent of the time," Quick said.
Miami Police Chief Jorge Colina said he listens when the CIP findings land on his desk, and the department does act, but they don’t have exact numbers.
"I remember instances where I would read one of their cases and they actually found a witness that we had not, and because of that witness we were able to reopen a case and have a finding where I was able to call a complainant and number one, apologize for the length of time that had taken, but more importantly kind of affirm what that complainant believed and we were able to do it convincingly," Colina said.