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Black Residents File Most Of The Complaints Against City Of Miami Police Officers

Gaston De Cardenas
Miami Herald
In the City of Miami, black residents account for 20 percent of the city's population, but lodge most of the complaints against police officers.

City of Miami police received more complaints from black residents from 2016 to 2017 than any other group.

Black residents make up 20 percent of the city’s population. But a new report by the Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP), an oversight board that reviews and investigates police misconduct, found they account for half of the complaints against Miami police officers. Of those, the complaints were mostly from black men.

Among the top complaints: improper procedure, abusive treatment and discourtesy.

District 5, the area with the highest concentration of black residents in the city, lodged the most complaints.

“The race and gender of complainants are disproportionate to the racial makeup of the City of Miami population,” the report found.

By comparison, Hispanics make up 70 percent of the city’s population, but account for 20 percent of police complaints, according to the report.

Miami police declined to comment on the report. 

Credit Miami's Civilian Investigative Panel
District 5 in the City of Miami is home to the majority of the city's black residents. A majority of the complaints filed against Miami police officers come from District 5.

Christine Beamud, CIP executive director, said there needs to be more research to further explain the racial dispraities, but called the initial findings "concerning."

Approved by voters in 2001, the CIP was created after a series of fatal police shootings of black men and the indictment of 13 Miami officers accused of covering up questionable shootings by planting guns on suspects.

People who file complaints against Miami police officers typically go through internal affairs, but can also file directly with the CIP.

Beamud said the investigative panel has seen an uptick of people filing direct complaints -- a 22 percent increase, according to the report. The agency credits a strengthened community outreach effort and a more streamlined process to file complaints online. 

Beamud said the CIP gives residents another way to have their concerns addressed. More than half of the complaints filed with the police department's internal affairs department, 72 percent, are closed with "no finding," according to the report. Thirteen percent of the cases filed with the CIP are closed with "no finding." 

"Complaints filed directly with the CIP are more likely to find officer culpability," the report noted. 

But even when the independent investigative panel does sustain a complaint against a police officer, it is up to the police department to follow through with the CIP's recommendation. 

For example, in a 2017 case, the CIP sustained a negligence of duty charge against a Miami police officer, but when it sent its letter of recommendation to the police department, the department wrote back questioning the CIP's conclusion and said that it would rely on its own internal investigation. That came back inconclusive.