MIAMI (AP) — The U.S. Justice Department has found for the second time in a decade that the Miami Police Department engaged in a pattern of excessive use of force in shootings of suspects, including seven black men fatally shot by officers over an eight-month period ending in 2011.
The department’s Civil Rights Division released the findings of an 18-month investigation Tuesday and said it will seek a federal court order to ensure necessary department changes are made permanent and overseen by a judge. That did not happen following a 2002 civil rights probe that also found Miami officers used excessive force.
“We are disappointed to find that the problem is back,” said Roy Austin, deputy assistant attorney general for civil rights.
The investigation began in November 2011, shortly after the firing of former Police Chief Miguel Exposito amid an outcry from black community leaders about the shootings. Exposito had created specialized tactical squads that focused intensely on high-crime areas, but also increased the likelihood of violent confrontations.
His replacement as chief, Manuel Orosa, has dismantled those units and changed tactics, leading to a sharp decrease in shootings since 2012, the report noted.
In a statement Tuesday, Orosa said he has implemented many reforms and will work with the Justice Department to make changes permanent, although he added many findings needed unspecified clarification.
“The Miami Police Department will strive to continue providing professional police services in accordance with the tenets of the Constitution of the United States of America,” Orosa said.
Miami U.S. Attorney Wifredo Ferrer said federal officials will negotiate with the police department on policy changes and reforms to present to a federal judge. He said court oversight is likely to last several years.
“We are confident that the findings and conclusions of this investigation will be heeded,” Ferrer said.
Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, said the report mirrors what his group and others have been saying for years.