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Officers coverups { January 6 2003 }

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Trial for 11 Miami officers accused of planting guns, cover-ups
CATHERINE WILSON, Associated Press Writer
Monday, January 6, 2003
2003 Associated Press


(01-06) 00:13 PST MIAMI (AP) --

Killings of black and Hispanic men by Miami police, and the subsequent acquittals of officers involved, have triggered riots or street clashes six times from 1980 to 1995.

Now city leaders are bracing for renewed tensions with a corruption trial against 11 rogue officers set to start Monday.

Based on information from two retired officers who pleaded guilty to conspiracy in September 2001, the 11 officers were indicted on federal corruption charges alleging cover-ups in four police shootings in which three men were killed.

The latest police scandal is the city's worst since the 1980s, when rogue officers stole cocaine from drug traffickers to resell. Three drug boat guards drowned when they jumped into the Miami River to avoid the uniformed officers. Eventually, more than 100 officers were arrested, fired or disciplined.

"The history of Miami has been characterized by ugly police-community relations," said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida. "There is a loss of confidence, if not outright hostility, by the minority community because of the great number of shootings of typically unarmed black young men."

Miami is not alone.

In Los Angeles, about 100 criminal cases were overturned after investigators heard allegations of police abuses in the police department's Rampart Division that included evidence tampering, unjustified shootings and thefts.

The numbers of police shootings in New York City have declined markedly but have been highlighted by cases such as the 1999 death of immigrant Amadou Diallo, shot 19 times by four white officers when he reached for his wallet.

Community outrage over shootings by police in Miami has inspired significant change.

Voters approved a civilian oversight board and members are about to be named. The police department imposed a tighter policy on officers allowing them to fire their weapons only when facing an imminent deadly threat.

Police Chief Raul Martinez, who led the city's shooting review board for five years, quit in November. Former Philadelphia Police Commissioner John Timoney was named to succeed him.

The four Miami shootings involved the deaths of three black men and the wounding of a fourth, plus one in which a man escaped injury.

In all of the cases, prosecutors say, guns were planted to make it look as if the three robbery suspects, a drug suspect and a homeless man were armed.

An attorney for two of the indicted officers said the shootings were justified.

"The justifiable use of force and deadly force laws have been in existence for years," said attorney Richard Sharpstein. "All of these shootings were well within those parameters."

The federal trial is expected to last three to five months. No state charges were filed.

2003 Associated Press

11 above law { January 22 2003 }
11 accused corruption { January 22 2003 }
Miama accused coverups { January 5 2003 }
Miami trial 11 officers
Officers coverups { January 6 2003 }

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