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Latino Daily News

Friday March 25, 2011

Community Wants Miami Police to Answer for Hispanic Officers Shooting African-American Suspects

Community Wants Miami Police to Answer for Hispanic Officers Shooting African-American Suspects

Photo: Community wants the dismissal of Chief Miguel Exposito from the Miami police force

Click Here to Enlarge Photo

A familiar pattern is once again showing itself in Miami as shootings by police officers are being questioned due to the fact that all involved Hispanic officers killing African-American suspects.

The subject of a hearing at a Miami commission hearing, has investigators looking at seven recent fatal shootings in Miami involving Hispanic cops and African-American suspects. Community activists, along with family members of the deceased spoke at the hearing Thursday. They claimed that officers are too aggressive and are too quick to fire their weapons.

The recent crackdown on violent crime is what Police Chief Miguel Exposito says is the reason for the increased shootings, not trigger happy officers. He claims that most shootings occur when an officer or officers are protecting themselves or the lives of others.

It was becoming so worrisome that Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate the matter. She stated that she was concerned that black suspects were being treated with greater violence than those of other races. In a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. she wrote, ““There is a wide range of growing concern in the community regarding the apparent lack of communication and response to these incidents by the City of Miami Police Department.”

For those in the outraged community, the example of officer Ricardo Martinez was made. Martinez, a 12-year veteran of the city’s gang unit, shot and killed two men within nine days in August of 2010. After the first shooting, Martinez returned to work just six days later. Three days after, the officer shot and killed another.

National experts say an officer tends to be put on desk duty after a shooting incident pending an investigation, and that returning to work just six days later is unusual.

To make matters worse, before the shootings, Martinez was under investigation for allegedly selling seized phones.

City officials and residents are now calling for the dismissal of Chief Exposito, as they believe he is behind the increased violence of the police force.

Under the leadership of his predecessor, John F. Timoney, critics point out that there was a 22-month period in which not a single police officer firing a weapon. Then in 2009, when Exposito took over, he assigned for than 100 officers to “tactical units,” many of which would later be the majority of the officers involved in the shootings in question.

Under Exposito, there have been 10 shootings, with seven fatalities.

However, former senior F.B.I. agent, Paul R. Philip, who was hired by city manager Tony. E. Crapp Jr., said, “It seemed to be a concern that the department was engaged in an accelerated rate of shootings, but there doesn’t appear to be. The data seems to support the chief.”