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Heard On Sundial: Police Accountability, Child Abuse Detention Centers, Opioid Crisis During COVID

The detention center in Homestead has been shut down since August 2019.

On this Tuesday, July 21, episode of Sundial:

Civilian Oversight Panel Proposal

For years, advocates have pushed for the creation of a civilian oversight panel to investigate claims of officer misconduct in Miami-Dade County, which has the largest police force in the state of Florida.

The county commission passed a proposalto establish such a panel, but Mayor Carlos Gimenez vetoed the plan for the second time in two years. A revised version of this plan faced the commission Tuesday.

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“Mayor Gimenez is leaving office. [The county is] going to have a new mayor. This item passed 8 to 5, so if it had a mayor who was supportive of it, this would have been the law of the land. It just wasn’t veto-proof this time around,” said WLRN reporter Danny Rivero. 

We spoke with Rivero about the push for a civilian panel, as well as the debate over Amendment 4 reaching the U.S. Supreme Court and what this means for Florida felons’ voting rights in the upcoming elections.

Child Abuse At Immigration Detention Centers

At least four children reported being sexually abused by staff at the detention center for unaccompanied minors near Homestead, according to newly released documents. Before it closed in August 2019, the facility was the nation’s largest center for unaccompanied migrant children and housed as many as 1,200 kids at a time. 

Although background checks are mandated in the state of Florida for anybody working with children, the detention center’s employees were not vetted for prior child abuse records. A 17-page report by the Administration for Children and Families details the sex abuse accusations and how they were handled. 

“The federal government referred it to the Department of Justice and they also referred it to the local law enforcement agency as well as the Administration for Children and Families,” said Monique O. Madan, the Miami Herald’s immigration reporter, who has been following the story. “What happened after that, we don’t know.”

We spoke with Madan about the published report, as well as COVID-19 outbreaks in detention centers.

Battling an Opioid Epidemic During a Pandemic

In the midst of a global pandemic, our country is simultaneously struggling through a separate health crisis. Thirty-five states, including Florida, have reported an increase in opioid overdoses this year compared to last, according to the American Medical Association

Luis Garcia, a former firefighter in Boynton Beach, has saved dozens of lives from opioid overdoses by administering the drug Narcan.

“Prior to [the COVID-19 pandemic], we were 5 percent of the world’s population and consuming approximately 80 to 90 percent of the world’s opioids. So we lead the world in the opioid crisis and that’s being overshadowed,” said Luis Garcia, a former firefighter in Boynton Beach, who has saved dozens of lives from opioid overdoses by administering a drug called Narcan.   

Through his non-profit, USA Opioid Crisis Mortality Reduction with Narcan, Garcia is training others how to administer the lifesaving drug through classes and is giving free Narcan donations to those in need. He is also distributing personal protective equipment and needed cleaning supplies because of the pandemic.

We spoke with Garcia about the national opioid epidemic and his nonprofit’s life-saving efforts during this time.

Leslie Ovalle Atkinson is the former lead producer behind Sundial. As a multimedia producer, she also worked on visual and digital storytelling.