Once again local law enforcement officers are being investigated for committing illegalities and for their involvement in corrupt practices. The FBI is investigating an undercover police squad assigned to the City of Miami Police Department. Since the investigation is still underway, it is unclear how many officers are alleged to be involved. The undercover squad is being investigated for allegedly stealing money and drugs from street level dealers. If the investigation reveals that one or more of these police officers were involved in any impropriety, defendants previously arrested by these officers for crimes such as cocaine sale, cocaine trafficking, marijuana possession or sale of marijuana may have the evidence necessary to have the case dismissed by the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.
City of Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado confirmed that an investigation was underway, but has not been briefed as to the details of the allegations. As of today, only one officer is under investigation and has been suspended from duty with pay. The officer has probably already received advice from a Miami criminal law firm regarding his rights. Depending on the strength of the evidence against the officer, he may be forced to assist federal law enforcement by providing information regarding other crimes committed by other officers on the squad. Other members of the drug enforcement squad have been served with subpoenas and are scheduled to appear before a grand jury in federal court. Whether the officers speak will depend on the advise they should have received from their criminal defense lawyers. All the officers are required to appear in court, however, they can always invoke their 6th Amendment right to counsel if questions posed to them may illicit an incriminating response.
The FBI investigation is targeting the City of Miami Police Department's Central District crime suppression unit. The detectives and officers assigned to this unit operate in plain clothes and are supposed to reduce street level crime. Based on limited available information, the feds are looking into whether any members of the crime suppression unit stole money or drugs from street level drug dealers or whether they took money and gave it to informants without properly accounting for it. Only time will tell if the allegations have any merit. We will post again regarding the outcome of the investigation to inform you which officers, if any, will be charged in the case.
The City of Miami Police Department has a long history of problems. The same street crime unit had significant problems in the 1990's which resulted in 13 indictments. The officers were accused of planting guns in four police involved shootings and then lying to law enforcement investigators about the shootings. Some of the officers were also charged with planting guns on shooting victims so they could avail themselves to claims of self-defense. As a result of that investigation and prosecution, four officers were convicted and sent to federal prison. Two of the officers received probation for cooperating in the prosecution of their fellow officer. Four of the officers were acquitted after a jury trial.
FBI Investigating Miami Police Street Crime Unit, The Miami Herald, May 28, 2010.