The way in which police conduct themselves while working in minority communities is a growing concern across the country. The recent tumult in Baltimore has its roots in a long list of social problems. Failing schools. Aching poverty. Crumbling neighborhoods. Merciless gentrification. And a breakdown of families. These seemingly intractable longstanding ills formed the kindling under which Charm City would burn.
The spark that lit that fire, however, was the ever-present rift between the community and the Baltimore police, culminating with the death of Freddie Gray.
A 16-year-old on the streets of Baltimore told CBS News: “I mean personally, I ain’t going to lie to you, I don’t like the police, just because of what they keep doing to my people – my people, my black people.”
And it is not just about killing young black men, as one protester noted it is about a lack of respect, a feeling that when police come into their neighborhood, rather than being a liberating force that protects a community, all too often they turn into an occupying army in which most of the people living there are viewed as being guilty of something.
Long before Baltimore erupted in flames, CBS4 News was exploring these very issues as part of a five-month investigation into allegations that a group of Miami Dade Police officers, operating in plain clothes and driving around in unmarked cars, were abusing their authority in the poor, black neighborhoods of South Dade. We analyzed hundreds of arrests in the hopes of moving beyond mere anectdotes. What we found is sure to spark debate.
Our journey in reporting these stories started with a blind man and culminated with a police major who understands the threat of racial profiling all to well.
We are calling this three-part series, “Race Matters: Policing by the Numbers.”
We hope you’ll take the time to watch it and let us know what you think.
Race Matters: Public Defender Now Staffing Branch Courts
For the first time in at least 30 years, assistant public defenders are working in the branch courthouses across Miami-Dade County. They are assisting people charged with misdemeanors.
Race Matters: A Look Inside Broward Pot Arrests
Broward County Commissioners will consider an ordinance allowing police and sheriff’s deputies the option of issuing a ticket to individuals caught with a small amount of marijuana rather than formally arresting them.
The measure is sponsored by Commissioner Martin Kiar, who said he was concerned the impact a misdemeanor marijuana arrest can have on an individual, especially those in low-income and minority communities. The move follows a similar ordinance which was enacted in Miami-Dade County earlier this year.
Race Matters, Day 1: “Tired of them abusing their authority.”
On August 27, a group of plainclothes Miami Dade police officers pulled onto a dead end street in the South Dade and arrested three young black men after finding a single marijuana cigarrete on the ground near where the trio was standing. Two of the men were released on the spot after being given notices to appear in court. The third person, however, was placed in handcuffs and loaded into one of the unmarked cars…
Race Matters, Day 2: “It’s About Quality of Life”
“A Saturation Detail.” In police parlance it is a term used to describe an operation in a particular neighborhood where officers blanket the area.
“Saturation means high visibility, we go in and we saturate the area in an effort to deter crime,” explained Miami-Dade Police Major Andrianne Byrd, who oversees the South District Station.
Race Matters, Day 3: “These Cases Have Very Serious Consequences”
During its five-month investigation into the Miami-Dade Police Department’s Crime Suppression Team, CBS4 News reviewed every arrest the officers from the South District Station made in 2014.
CBS4 News found a unit whose actions resulted in the arrests of hundreds of individuals – mostly young black males – for petty offenses. Even more troubling, the arrests failed to result in a reduction in crime in the South District.
Race Matters Follow Up: ACLU, NAACP, State Rep. React
Citing our CBS4 News investigation Race Matters: Policing The Numbers, the Miami-Dade branch of the NAACP is asking the county commission to form a task force to improve the way citizens can file complaints against the Miami-Dade police officers.
Race Matters: Town Hall Meeting On Policing In South Dade
As a result of our Race Matters Series, State Representative Kionne L. Mcghee from District 117 hosted a solution-driven discussion on policing in South Dade
Participants included Police Director JD Patterson, Public Defender Carlos Martinez, Judge Miguel de la O, State Senator, Dwight Bullard, Commissioner Sally Heyman, Michelle Richardson from the ACLU as well as a representative from the State Attorney’s Office.
RACE MATTERS: MDPD To Release More Records On Race & Arrests
In the wake of Jim DeFede’s Race Matters Series, Miami-Dade Police Director JD Patterson has pledged to gather and release information on the racial and ethnic breakdown of the people his officer’s arrest across the county.
Race Matters: Round Two
As part of our continuing series, CBS4 News expanded its review, focusing on the racial disparities for marijuana arrests across Miami Dade County.
On Sunday, June 28, on Facing South Florida, CBS4 News unveiled the results of that investigation which included a review of nearly 60,000 court cases. We looked at every misdemeanor marijuana case, made by every police agency in the county, for the last five years; analyzing the cases based on race, outcome, and law enforcement agency. We also looked at the impact those cases have on the court system and its cost to taxpayers. Jim DeFede’s guests for this show include Professor Donald Jones and Broward Vice-Mayor Martin Kiar.
THE BEGINNING: Tannie “T-Man” Burke
The roots of the this project go back to a story CBS4 News first aired in November in which 21-year-old Tannie Burke, told us he was arreseted by a group of plainclothes police officers in unmarked cars and taken for a ride. His offense: The police claimed to find a marijuana ciagarette near where Burke and two other men were standing. Burke said he was eventually let go by the officers, dropped on the edge of some darkened farm land miles from his house. What made the incident so shocking: Burke is legally blind.
In addition to the interviews we conducted that are contained in our stories, we also asked a variety of individuals with unique and important perspectives on the issue to record their thoughts and offer suggestions on what needs to happen.
A DEEPER DIVE
We take a closer look at the numbers behind our stories and what they reveal about policing in the South District.
FACING SOUTH FLORIDA: RACE MATTERS FOLLOW UP SPECIAL
A special live one hour edition of Facing South Florida aired on May 31, 2015 featuring several follow up to Race Matters: Policing By The Numbers
Watch Those Updates Here _______________________________________________________________________
AROUND THE WEB
A list of groups, studies and websites mentioned in the series, as well as other research you may find interesting on this subject.
We’d like to hear from you. Please feel free to comment about our series Race Matters: Policing the Numbers.