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Update: Jane Castor’s job as Miami’s police monitor ends amid criticism

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, who was sworn into office in May, has served since 2016 as the $150-an-hour reviewer of Miami police’s practices and policies under an agreement with the Department of Justice.
Newly elected Tampa Mayor Jane Castor has been an independent monitor of Miami Police Department practices. [OCTAVIO JONES | Tampa Bay Times]
Published Jun. 25
Updated Jun. 26

(Editor’s note: Castor’s spokeswoman, Ashley Bauman, provided the Tampa Bay Times with a statement at 12:15 p.m. Wednesday responding to this story: “Mayor Castor has enjoyed a positive working relationship with the Miami Police Department, DOJ and the CAB over the past few years. It is her opinion that MPD has met the requirements of the Agreement, as has been outlined in each report. Mayor Castor also understands that the Agreement must remain open until 2020 per DOJ. She communicated to all parties that she would be unable to continue in the position of Independent Monitor if elected Mayor of Tampa and recommended a replacement, if that was the option chosen by MPD and DOJ. The final report, covering the period from February thru May 2019, will be submitted upon completion and in coordination with the DOJ and MPD.”)

(Editor’s note II: At 3:15 p.m. Wednesday, Bauman provided another statement: “Mayor Castor received a key to the city for all of her hard work. Quote from [Miami] Mayor Suarez ‘She is special. The Mayor will do phenomenal but is a great human being and a great Miamian - hence the key!’”)

A community board responsible for overseeing Miami’s compliance with a federal policing agreement wants to part ways with the department’s independent monitor.

Tampa Mayor Jane Castor, who was sworn into office in May, has served since 2016 as the $150-an-hour reviewer of Miami police’s practices and policies under an agreement with the Department of Justice. The agreement was the result of a Department of Justice investigation, spurred by a string of police shootings that killed seven black men in an eight-month stretch spanning 2010 and 2011. In 2013, the Department of Justice determined that Miami cops had engaged in a pattern of excessive use of force.

In April, Castor — former Tampa police chief — told the Herald she thinks the department “had satisfied all of the requirements of the agreement,” so she would seek to end the oversight. The Community Advisory Board, created as part of the agreement, swiftly disagreed. So did the Justice Department, which told a city official assigned to the board that the oversight will continue.

On Monday night, advisory board members said Castor still owes them three reports. Chairman Justin Pinn said he recognizes improvements have been made in the police department, but he said Castor’s previous reports have not included the depth and detail necessary to prove to the community that the culture of the department has been transformed.

Dissatisfied with Castor’s performance and doubtful she can fulfill her duties as police monitor while she serves as mayor of Tampa, the board unanimously voted to recommend the city and DOJ agree to have Castor resign or fire her. The board also suggested finding a new independent monitor, though city officials said the Justice Department might be inclined to assume the responsibility in-house.

The police department has instituted several reforms to address the Justice Department’s specific concerns since 2013, including disbanding certain special units, adding training and changing how police-involved shootings. are investigated. Mayor Francis Suarez and members of Police Chief Jorge Colina’s command staff were present Monday and defended the department’s improvements before the advisory board.

“I’ve seen a significant increase, under this police chief, of community policing and community outreach,” Suarez said.

Still, police misconduct occurs and is often reported to another oversight group that has a relationship with the community board, the Civilian Investigative Panel.

That panel’s review found that police were misusing body-worn cameras, which are meant to document the public interactions with cops and add a layer of accountability. The Miami New Times has reported on the panel’s critiques regarding misuse of body cameras.

The Community Advisory Board issued a report suggesting the police department should institute implicit bias training and beef up its body-worn camera policies to ensure officers use the devices properly.

Castor “never responded to it or has mentioned it in any of her reports,” Pinn said on Monday.

Castor was not present at Monday night’s meeting. As of early May, she had been paid $154,400.80 by the city for her work.

City officials said they are in discussions with the Justice Department on how to proceed for the remainder of the agreement, which is set to end in 2020. When asked if he would suggest the city terminate Castor, Suarez told the Herald he intends to discuss the matter with Colina and City Manager Emilio Gonzalez.

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