It’s protocol when a police officer fires his weapon for an investigation to take place. But when that firing results in the death of a citizen, that investigation can take up to 6 years, according to the Miami Herald, a time frame that is considered unacceptable by many people within the community and even Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito.
Currently, there are 63 cases of police shootings that are unresolved in the state attorney’s office. These are cases that are still being investigated to determine if the shooting was justified. Twenty-five of these cases involve fatalities.
State Attorney Kathering Fernandez Rundle shoulders much of the blame for these lengthy investigations. Her officer blames heavy caseloads and a desire to be completely thorough, though others say the State Attorney’s office simply likes to wait it out for controversy to die down about these particularly difficult incidences.
Rundle has held her position as State Attorney for 18 years and in that time she has never prosecuted a police officer for killing someone. All of the shootings have been ruled justified.
Just this Memorial Day, a Miami police shooting went viral on YouTube, showing Raymon Herisse being killed in a barrage of police bullets during Urban Beach Week. The police haven’t released any information from this case to the public, let alone Herisse’s family. If his case follows the same route as so many others, it might be 5 years before anything is decided.
In some cases, the process takes so long, the grieving family has no choice but to move on with their lives, feeling like the system is hiding something or simply doesn’t care about the people who have been killed by police. Family members of Joseph Lumpkin, who was killed over three years ago and remains an open case, have long since given up on obtaining reports or even getting answers from police or the state attorney’s office.
The delays have fostered more distrust in communities where police relations are already fragile. When the police can kill a citizen, justified or not, and be cushioned by a secretive investigation that never ends in punishment, it’s not a stretch to imagine that at least some of those investigations may be protecting the officer more than the general public.
While there’s no law or even no uniform way of conducting these types of investigations, there is a standard practice. Interestingly, when a Miami police officer shoots and kills someone, the investigation into the killing is done by their coworkers within the Miami homicide department. Then the reports are handed over to the state attorney’s office, hardly a formula for fair and unbiased investigations.
Police shootings are at the far end of the spectrum when it comes to police behavior. But police misconduct and even simple unfair treatment by the police happens all the time. Often the police make a mistake and infringe upon the rights of the citizens they are tasked with protecting. When you face criminal charges and the police violate your rights, this could be an avenue for having evidence suppressed and possibly the charges against you dropped.