With a clueless chief at the helm, the Miami police force seems to be killing Black men at will. Can the Justice Department stop the killings?
Twenty-eight-year-old Travis McNeil and his 30-year-old cousin left a Miami club early last month and were pulled over by Miami police soon thereafter. Although McNeil never exited the car during his stop, and although neither he nor his cousin were armed, police ended up firing on the two men, killing McNeil and wounding his cousin.
McNeil’s passing marked the seventh Black man killed by Miami police in eight months. What the heck is happening in Florida?
“I don’t understand how the powers that be can allow these things to keep happening,” said Sheila McNeal, Travis’ mother. “Something is drastically wrong.”
Indeed it is. Miami has struggled with racial tensions for years, with African-Americans running into conflicts with both the high Latino population—Cubans and others—and whites. These latest police shootings are simply throwing fuel on a fire that’s existed for years, and at the center of the battle is Miami Police Chief Miguel A. Exposito.
Despite calls for his resignation or for a Justice Department investigation into the Miami PD’s tactics, Exposito has thus far been unwilling to admit any wrongdoing on his team’s part.
"We don’t have a violent police department,” Exposito said last week. “You’ll find our officers are very compassionate with the people they deal with. They will try to de-escalate situations rather than resorting to deadly force.”
The problem is that Exposito’s officers don’t behave the way he apparently believes they do.
The Florida chapter of the ACLU has long since fought against the Miami PD’s racial profiling. And in January, two former Miami cops went to prison for shaking down a drug dealer. These latest incidents—in every one a Latino cop killed a black man—are more cause for concern about how “passionate” Miami cops actually are.
According to the New York Times, state Congresswoman Frederica S. Wilson wrote to the U.S. Justice Department recently asking Attorney General Eric Holder to look into Exposito and the Miami PD. “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,” she said.
Thus far, the Justice Department hasn’t responded, and Exposito’s continued discussion of “proper procedure” has people like Sheila McNeal understandably frustrated.
“When your son has been shot,” she told the Times, “you don’t want to hear about policies.”
(Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images)