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Time for change at Civilian Investigative Panel

Miami Times Editorial Department | 5/8/2014, 9 a.m.

It’s a reality you will find in many of America’s organizations: hardworking individuals clashing with one another over decisions that would best serve the interest of their organization. In one corner are hard-driving leaders who are responsible for making tough decisions. On the other side are dedicated workers who can sometimes challenge the upper echelon of organizations with or without good intentions.

But it has been worse at the Civilian Investigative Panel, the City of Miami’s 13-member organization that reviews citizen’s complaints alleging police misconduct in fatal shootings that often involve young Black males. The agency was created at a time when racial tensions in Black communities throughout the city were escalating as citizens questioned the motives and behavior of trigger-happy police officers patrolling neighborhood streets. Despite efforts to the promote harmony and trust between residents in the community, recent case rulings and infighting within the agency have raised questions whether the CIP can serve its intended purpose.

With a backlog of 50 cases, the panel has been left with one investigator to thoroughly review and provide answers and perhaps closure to grieving relatives of victims who were killed in the prime of their lives. Meanwhile, racial tensions are growing within the CIP with the terminations and resignations of several investigators and staff members who left under the agency’s new Executive Director Christina Beamud. Supporters believe Beamud is cleaning house, a task Black leaders agree is long overdue. A majority of the CIP Panel twice voted to fire Beamud, who will likely remain at the agency since City Manager Daniel Alphonso has the final say on her fate.

Meanwhile, Black leaders and civil rights organizations are calling for termination of the panel’s counsel Charles Mays who is accused of orchestrating Beamud’s attempted firing and persuading investigators to ignore evidence that favored complainants. Mays is also accused of routinely providing bad legal advice to the panel.

Like Beamud, Mays has his supporters and detractors, but everyone agrees that racial tensions, and infighting are major distractions that are destroying the CIP. It is time for change. With cases as old as 2009, the panel should return to its real purpose in providing answers to relatives who have suffered because of the shameless discord and the disunity within the CIP. City leaders should thoroughly review whether the termination of Beamud and Mays are necessary to restore unity, productivity and credibility to the CIP. The CIP and grieving family members can no longer afford the city’s silence as the answer to these problems.