Miami police officers have killed seven Black men in the last eight months, causing a fiery uproar in the Black community and demands for the police chief’s ouster, according to The Miami Herald.
A civilian police oversight panel voted March 25 to conduct a parallel investigation into one of last summer’s fatal shootings by Miami police, according to the Miami Herald. The move could make public all records related to the case by ordering the police chief to turn over all records related to the shootings.
The 11-member panel, created after a spate of police-involved shootings, acted after prodding from the American Civil Liberties Union and the local chapter of the NAACP.
The public outcry has lead some Miami congressional members to call for a federal investigation into the police department’s policies.
Police Chief Miguel A. Exposito, who has been Miami’s top cop since November 2009, claimed that the shootings stemmed from his officers’ crackdown on several drug operations and gang activity, according to the Herald.
City Manager Tony Crapp Jr. enlisted a retired FBI agent to evaluate the unit but the ex-agent, Paul Phillip, a Black man who headed the FBI’s Miami Field Office, told the New York Times, the data backs the police.
“It seemed to be a concern that the department was engaged in an accelerated rate of shootings, but there doesn’t appear to be,” Mr. Philip said. “The data seems to support the chief.”
“We don’t have a violent police department,” Exposito told The New York Times. “You’ll find our officers are very compassionate with the people they deal with. They will try to de-escalate situations rather than resorting to deadly force.”
The civilian panel, called the Civilian Investigative Panel, is starting with the first of a series of shootings that began last July when officers reportedly shot DeCarlos Moore during a traffic stop when the man walked away from officers toward his car against their orders. Family members insist that Moore and the latest victim, Travis McNeil, 28, were unarmed.
“Today I know no more about what happened to my child than the night he was murdered,” said Sheila McNeil, whose son, McNeil, was gunned down by Miami police Feb 10. His death was the most recent of several killings involving officers in the city.
“I feel mistreated in so many ways by those who are supposed to serve and protect us,” McNeil said at a city commission meeting in Miami City Hall March 25.
Race is also at the center of the controversy as the seven men shot are Black and all of the shooting officers are Latino.
Several family members, community leaders and at least two city commissioners are calling for Exposito—who is Latino—to step down.
“It’s not personal. He’s just not competent to be a chief, that’s all,” city commissioner Richard P. Dunn II told The New York Times in a recent interview. All of the fatal shootings happened in his district.
“These shootings have us sitting on a time bomb,” Dunn said. “Everyone wonders: When is the next one going to happen? And the fact the chief is still here just makes Miami look like a banana republic.”
Despite his unpopularity, the police chief voiced confidence in the stability of his position. When a Miami talk show host asked Exposito if his job was in jeopardy, he responded, “No way…You are going to have me as police chief here for a long time.”