Miami-Dade Community Board Supports Idea of Citizens Panel to Examine Police Complaints

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A vote by the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board Wednesday showed symbolic support for establishing a citizen independent review panel to investigate police complaints.

The vote doesn’t have any official impact on what the Miami-Dade Commission comes up with as it moves forward in setting up a citizens panel.

When it comes to a similar panel already in place in Miami and what its actually done, NBC 6 found that in the last 18 months, about a quarter of the time it does find that officers have violated the rules.

The CIP panel had 233 people come forward and file complaints over the last 18 months. In 56 of the cases they found violations. In 126 of the complaints there were no findings.

Miami resident Samuel Scott was arrested allegedly for filing a false report that his car was 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 never got his wallet back, although body cam video showed one of the officers was holding it.

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."

The lawyer for the Miami CIP told the Miami-Dade Community Relations Board historically about its findings.

"I did the calculations about a year or two ago and they sustained allegations against police officers about 12 percent of the time," John 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.

The Miami CIP said that today, calls for defunding police have nothing to do with setting up more South Florida panels similar to theirs.

"There has been some misinformation that has been billed out to the masses to kind of derail this. I don’t think that's what we should be doing right now," CIP assistant executive director Rodney Jacobs said. "We should be looking towards a better society that uses less lethal and excessive force and police officer misconduct."

Jacobs said he hopes that these protests and conversations will result in Miami police paying even closer attention to the findings of the panel.

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