“But as significant as these findings are, ultimately, someone needs to be held responsible for the deaths and the violation of constitutional rights,” Simon said. “We expect a follow-up investigation into the conduct of the Miami Police Department officers who were responsible.”
The Justice Department report found that between 2008 and 2011, Miami officers fired shots at someone 33 times. In contrast, investigators noted that during one 20-month period in 2002-04, no Miami police officer fired a gun at a suspect.
Only seven officers were responsible for a third of the 2008-11 shootings, three of which were found unjustified by internal police investigators. No officers have been charged criminally. One officer has been dismissed by the department after he shot and killed an unarmed motorist and wounded an unarmed passenger.
Five of the officers involved in the fatal shootings of black suspects have been cleared of criminal wrongdoing, said state attorney spokesman Ed Griffith. Two remain under investigation.
The Justice Department investigation found numerous deficiencies at the Miami Police Department, including:
—Officers used poor tactics, such as poor marksmanship, shooting from too far away, failing to wait for backup in a possibly armed confrontation and firing at moving vehicles.
—Specialized units often used unmarked vehicles and officers dressed as civilians, raising the likelihood of violence.
—Shooting investigations encountered lengthy delays, including one in 2009 in which the officer and witnesses still have not provided statements to investigators. Justice Department investigators say such delays mean corrective actions are not taken or policy changes not made, meaning avoidable shootings continue to happen.
—Police shooting investigations are inadequate and often don’t probe deeply enough into whether officers had non-lethal options available. In some cases, the physical shooting scene wasn’t preserved properly.
The 2002 Justice Department probe began after 13 Miami police officers were indicted in conspiracy charges for planting evidence, including guns, to undermine investigations into four officer-involved shootings. Although the latest cases are not that egregious, Civil Rights Division investigators said, many of the same institutional problems were found both times.