Miami Dade Police Department

The members of the Miami-Dade NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union are mounting a letter-writing campaign aimed at Mayor Carlos Gimenez, asking that he not veto legislation to fully restore civilian oversight of Miami-Dade Police Department.

The members of the Miami-Dade NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union are mounting a letter-writing campaign aimed at Mayor Carlos Gimenez, asking that he not veto legislation to fully restore civilian oversight of Miami-Dade Police Department.

Ruban Roberts, the president of the Miami-Dade branch, said he’s surprised by the veto threat.

Roberts also is part of a diverse group of local community organizations that spent eight months drafting ideas on how oversight in Miami-Dade County would work.

“In a state where there is so much distrust for government, I think it’s important to allow our community members to have a voice, an outlet so if there is a complaint or concern about a government entity then they have a place they can go to voice their concerns,” said Roberts. “They need a place that is independent from county government. “This will improve community relationships, and build more trust with the government.”

Roberts said Gimenez should allow the will of the people who represent the citizens — the 13 commissioners — to stand.

“These folks represent Miami-Dade County at large. The majority have passed the ordinance,” Roberts said. “We would like due process to happen. We’d like the mayor to not veto, but to let the ordinance to stand as approved.”

Supporters of civilian police oversight said last week they were cautiously optimistic about recent votes in favor of two such agencies operating in Miami and Miami-Dade County.

On Thursday, the Miami Commission appointed four new Black men and women to serve on its Civilian Investigative Panel. Supporters say the additions give the city panel its most diverse lineup by race and gender.

The NAACP cheered two days earlier, on Feb. 6, when the Miami-Dade County Commission voted 7-5 to restore funding to its oversight agency — and to authorize a new name. Under the ordinance, $170,000 to fund the agency would be taken from the Miami-Dade Police Department budget.

Two of the opponents — Commissioners Joe Martinez and Rebeca Sosa voiced strong concerns against the need for oversight. Martinez is a former Miami-Dade Police officer, so his opposition isn’t new.

The other no votes were from Commission Chairman Esteban Bovo, Javier Souto and Jose “Pepe” Diaz. Commissioner Sally Heyman was not on the dais during the vote.

However, after the vote, Mayor Carlos Gimenez expressed reservations about the need for the panel and suggested he might veto the legislation.

Gimenez spokesman Michael Hernandez said the mayor had not yet decided what he will do.

“Mayor Gimenez is evaluating his options. He has met with Commissioner Barbara Jordan and Police Director Juan Perez to discuss the matter,” Hernandez said.

In July, county commissioners gave tentative approval to a report by presented by a working group on ways the county could reinstate the new Independent Community Panel (ICP). The organization was created nearly 40 years ago in response to tensions between the police and the Black community.

The IRP, created in the wake of the1980 riots, was a fully functioning agency with subpoena power. It was designed to monitor and investigate charges of police brutality and other complaints against county employees.

It was written out of the Miami-Dade budget in the late 2000s after the economic downturn. The IRP has a volunteer board, but no funds to investigate. Several community organizations including the Miami-Dade NAACP, ACLU of Florida, and PULSE urged unsuccessfully for the county to restore the full funding during the 2016 budget negotiations.

Under the proposal presented to commissioners, the revised panel would have more duties. The old IRP reviewed complaints by citizens primarily against Miami-Dade Police Department officers and invited officers or their superiors to address the complaints, or at least verbally respond.

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