Seven black men have been killed by Miami police officers in the course of eight months. The most recent shooting happened on February 11, when 28-year-old Travis McNeal was driving with his cousin Kareem Williams, and was pulled over for reportedly driving erratically. The night ended with McNeal dead. Detective Reinaldo Goya fired into the car and shot Williams three times and also killed McNeal. McNeal never even left the car. Both men were unarmed.
It's too many killings of black men at the hands of police, community members say.
"I don't understand how the powers that be can allow these things to keep happening," Sheila McNeil, McNeil's mother told the New York Times. "Something is drastically wrong."
The shootings have prompted calls for a Department of Justice investigation. For months now City Commissioner Richard Dunn has been calling for Police Chief Miguel Exposito Jr.'s resignation, with little success. Exposito has defended his department, saying that his officers only use force when absolutely necessary, or when officers fear for their lives. With the pileup of deaths in recent months, Exposito's been hard pressed for convincing justifications for his officers' actions.
The black men were all killed by Latino police officers, the New York Times reported.
The already simmering community tension was aggravated earlier this year by the release of a video taken as part of the pilot for a reality television show called "Miami's Finest SOS," in which Exposito was an enthusiastic participant. The video caught a Miami police officer relishing his love of going out to "hunt" suspects. On the video, Exposito can be heard explaining his participation in the television show: "I wanted to have something where our guys were going out there proactively ... like predators."
Internal emails showed that Exposito frantically tried to get that statement and the video taken down, the New York Times reported.
It's not just the Miami police's public image that needs work. Their accountability mechanisms seem to be in sore need of public oversight. Last week, the Miami Herald reported that the NAACP and ACLU called on the Civilian Investigative Panel, a civilian oversight group with subpoena power, to look into what seemed to be a pattern of abuse. That same day the Miami police denied the CIP access to information about the death of DeCarlos Moore, the first black man to be killed by police in the recent spate of deaths.
"Florida law provides that the requested documents shall remain confidential and exempt from disclosure during the pendency of the investigations," Miami police department attorney George Wysong wrote in a letter to the panel.