The scathing report from the Department of Justice blasting the procedures and practices of the Miami Police Department that left seven young black men dead in eight months by police gunfire a couple of years ago is not just an indictment of an agency that is supposed to protect the people. It is also a vindication of the outrage which the community expressed over the extra-judicial executions carried out by rogue cops. Some families of the slain men refused to let their killings be just another example of the sometimes mortal peril of inner-city life. Their cause was joined by a number of organizations which refused to accept that just because Africans in America have been herded into communities distinguished by color of skin, often grinding poverty and neglect, their men should be fair game for roaming police officers assigned to questionable squads called “special units.”
Everybody wants to feel secure and there is little argument that the police can and, as a rule, do provide that security. But it must be evident by now that the behavior demonstrated by Miami police officers, in this particular instance and in others, will never, ever, be demonstrated – or tolerated – in, say, Coral Gables, Coconut Grove, Aventura, you name it. Why?
As Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado and Police Chief Manuel Orosa continue their efforts to win the support of the community and rein in the trigger happy cops, they should ask themselves that question: Why the urge to make target practice of young black men in Miami?
It is equally shameful that the Department of Justice had to investigate this police department more than once and, instead of the situation getting better, it just worsened.
The seven young men who died from bullets fired by police officers cannot be brought back. The grief of their families will not be lessened by the findings of the federal investigation, however harsh. But at least their deaths have not gone unnoticed now. The Department of Justice has set out a road map for a better future that includes the police department and others working out an acceptable plan for a major overhaul of practices and procedures, including very strict supervision of officers and holding each of them accountable. Then that plan must go before a judge for approval and be in place for at least two years.
The problem, of course, is that unless there is an honest and sincere commitment not only to making reforms but also to ensuring that they stick, none of this will matter much. The track record does not allow for much optimism. Meanwhile, cops who are deemed to have violated the law must be held accountable and charged with murder or for violating the civil rights of these black men.