Legislation that was vetoed by Republican Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez in 2018, is up for a vote again on Tuesday.
Massive protests erupted in South Florida and major cities in the U.S. after the death in Minneapolis of George Floyd, an unarmed black man killed when a white police officer pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes, asphyxiating the 46-year-old father of two.
As demonstrators demand accountability and police oversight by an independent review board, Miami-Dade District 1 Commissioner Barbara Jordan is backing the establishment of an oversight panel for the police department. As proposed, the panel would publish reports on complaints after public hearings.
“I very much believe it is necessary,” Miami-Dade District 8 Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava told The Americano. “When you have power you need checks and balances. We need transparency when actions are objectionable. There needs to be public accountability.”
In 2018, oversight legislation proposed by Jordan was vetoed by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Giménez. At the time, the Republican mayor said he nixed it “because I didn’t want just representation from special interest groups. It has to be made up of people from the community — all of the community.”
The new iteration of the proposal, however, allows commissioners to appoint the oversight members, the condition Giménez said would have to be met in order to get his approval.
The legislation would allow the panel to investigate any county employee. Although it would have no disciplinary powers, it would give the board subpoena power. However, it would exclude police officers from those subpoenas, as there are state rules in place that restrict how the police can be investigated.
The proposed panel could include active as well as retired police officers. But Audrey Edmonson, one of the four black commissioners who supported Jordan’s 2018 proposal, said she is thinking of adding a civil rights attorney.
“We need to have people who understand, and who can be fair to the police department, as well as fight for the community,” said Edmonson.
Human Rights Campaign President (HRC) Alphonso David, who addressed the Committee on the Judiciary United States House of Representatives on policing, agrees.
“Police oversight bodies can be influential if such bodies are truly independent… representative of the demographic makeup of our communities, and given the authority to meaningfully investigate complaints and enforce penalties for misconduct.“ David told The Americano.
However, some police unions have criticized the planned legislation, proposing that civilian oversight is unnecessary, as internal affairs, a branch of the department, oversees the police.
Jordan’s legislation will likely come up for a vote Tuesday, June 16.
A Troubled History
Miami has a long and troubled history with racial unrest. Four decades ago, Miami’s black community responded in anger after four white Miami-Dade County police officers were acquitted of killing black insurance salesman Arthur McDuffie. The recent deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have reopened those wounds.
“The trust has been eroded, and many parts of our community are distrustful [of the police],” says Levine Cava. “Some parts have been taught that the police are there to help, but others, because of past experience, believe they will be judged by the color of their skin. They need to regain trust and know that they have recourse.”
Democrats Unveil Reforms
On Monday Congressional Democrats unveiled the Justice in Policing Act, a legislative proposal seeking to ban the use of chokeholds, create a national registry of police misconduct, lower the legal standard for prosecuting police misconduct, and ban no-knock warrants, among other sweeping reforms.
But for Alphonso David, although necessary, reforms are just “one part of the changes needed to begin to rectify our legacy of white supremacy and anti-Black racism that continues to lead to police violence and killing of Black people across the country.”
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