Miami-Dade Police Department

Barbara Jordan’s attempt to restore civilian oversight to Miami-Dade County failed in a 5-6 vote by the Miami-Dade County Commission.

The decision during the April 10 commission meeting is a huge setback for proponents of civil rights and civil liberties groups. Those advocates had worked for nearly two years on a plan to bring back an independent watchdog in Miami-Dade County. 

This is the second vote in two months for the Independent Community Panel. The measure passed 7-5 in February, but ended with a veto by Mayor Carlos Gimenez, who said he was “not entirely convinced that there is a need for an Independent Community Panel.”

“The county already has numerous internal mechanism and external entities that oversee and investigated complaints against any county employee or agency,” Gimenez wrote. 

Jordan’s measure this time changed the makeup of the panel to address some of Gimenez’s concerns, but a trio of vocal commissioners — Rebeca Sosa, Joe Martinez and Sally Heyman — pretty much blasted the entire idea. 

The four black commissioners — Jordan, Jean Monestime, Audrey Edmonson, and Dennis Moss — were joined by Daniella Levine Cava in supporting the measure. 

The new panel would be made up of 11 members and would be a mix of people appointed by commissioners, the county mayor, and a local police chiefs’ organization.

Under Jordan’s plan, nine members would be appointed by commissioners. Five of the seats would have been filled based on from a pool of names recommended by community organizations. The four other seats would have been filled at large based upon occupation: one retired judge, a social worker, a human resources expert and a clergy member.

The two remaining slots would be appointed by Gimenez and by the Miami-Dade County Police Chiefs’ association.

Jordan’s staff said she took a look at some of the concerns the mayor raised in his veto message. In a statement before the commission meeting, she thought that would be enough. 

“I am cautiously optimistic that the amended item will pass the commission today and that the Mayor will not exercise his veto power. I believe this is a much more balanced item than the previous one, with broad representation from several segments of the community,” Jordan said.

The Independent Community Panel was supposed to be the successor to an agency that previously operated as the Independent Review Panel. 

The IRP, created in the aftermath of the 1980 McDuffie uprising, was popular in the Black community, as well as with civil rights and civil liberties organizations. 

Several community groups including the NAACP and the ACLU of Florida worked for nearly two years on a plan for an oversight agency.

Jeanne Baker, the chairman of the police practices committee of the Greater Miami ACLU, said she and other supporters were shocked by the vote. 

“We’re extremely disappointed,” Baker said. “I’m surprised because this is something that we’ve been working on and presenting positions and comments to the [commission]  two years now.”

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