Watchdog: Accountability

Florida county calls for external police probes

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Crime,Associated Press,Watchdog,Florida,Accountability

MIAMI — Miami Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez wants the county's police department to turn over investigations of its police-involved shootings to the state. Gimenez wrote last week in a memo to Miami Dade County Police Director J.D. Patterson that he also wants the state to investigate deaths of people in police custody.

Patterson is not convinced. He told The Miami Herald on Friday the current system works, but he added that turning over such investigations would free up department resources. The county reported 17 police-involved shootings last year and two in-custody deaths. A third of the investigations were sent to the state attorney. The county also investigates officer-involved shootings of neighboring, smaller law enforcement agencies.

"People shouldn't be investigating themselves," the mayor told the newspaper Friday. He wants the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to handle the investigations. The agency oversees investigations into the use of deadly force by more than 20 law enforcement agencies, including the Orange County Sheriff's Office.

Civil rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida applauded the proposal.

Gimenez's efforts come after criticism last summer over his decision to reduce the police department's public-corruption unit. The cutbacks occurred following the unit's investigation of absentee ballot fraud allegations related to Gimenez's 2012 mayoral campaign. The mayor said the cutbacks came after the FBI asked to take a greater role in such probes.

The County's Police Benevolent Association head John Rivera says moving the police-shooting investigations is another attempt to cut the department.

The mayor said staffing would not be affected by such a change. He also said the county would offer some of its investigators to work with FDLE if it doesn't have enough resources.

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