Miami's police chief says the city's 1,300-member department has met every standard under a new community policing agreement signed with the U.S. Department of Justice in the wake of a spate of shootings that roiled racial tensions.
So what does former Tampa police Chief Jane Castor, the independent, $150-an-hour monitor of the police force, think about that?
Few know, and no one is saying.
Nine months after the city and federal government came to terms on the hard-fought compact, the consultant hired to look over the department's shoulder is way behind schedule. Though her first public report was to be issued July 10, and her second in November, Castor has yet to publish a review stating her opinion of the department's progress.
Castor, who by all accounts is already interviewing police, reviewing data and visiting training sessions, filed only a final methodology explaining how she'll go about her job this month. She wasn't officially under contract until this week — a fact the city of Miami acknowledged Thursday, two months after the Miami Herald requested the document.
Castor and Miami's city attorney say they're being judicious, and no one is dragging their feet. But the paucity of information about progress under the federal policing agreement is creating some frustration.
"There's been a lot of work and I can certainly understand the concern of anybody who has an interest in this process that a date has come and gone," Castor told the Miami Herald. "But we want to ensure especially that the first report meets everyone's expectations. Not necessarily the outcome, but the process itself."
Miami police have been under the requirements of a federal policing agreement since the compact was signed March 10. The agreement was the product of a Department of Justice investigation that began at the request of Mayor Tomás Regalado in 2011 after a review of 33 police-involved shootings and determined in 2013 that officers had engaged in a pattern of excessive force when it came to pulling the trigger. The shootings involved the killing of seven black men in an eight-month stretch spanning 2010 and 2011.
The policing agreement, which lays out requirements for training, supervision and investigations, among other issues, largely acknowledges that Miami police proactively made their own changes. It was reached out of court, leaving it free of the scrutiny of a federal judge — which makes Castor's job as independent monitor all the more important.
In her role, Castor is key in determining whether the department has complied with the goals set out by the Justice Department by 2020, or earlier if Miami police prove they've made the necessary strides, as they say they have. If they haven't, the agency can file a complaint in federal court to extend its supervision.
"Basically, the monitor is a referee or a fact-checker that we are not lying to the DOJ," explained police Chief Rodolfo Llanes, who says his department has fully complied with the federal compact.
Castor was chosen after much wrangling by the city over the potential cost of a monitor. She is working as an individual, whereby other cities under federal review, such as Cleveland, employ a team. She spent the week in Miami interviewing police officials, observing trainings and reviewing data. She said she submitted a draft of her first report some time ago, but it has not yet been finalized.