MIAMI — Following the Florida Supreme Court's June 22 decision that Miami’s Civilian Investigative Panel (CIP) cannot subpoena an officer who is under investigation, the CIP contends this decision will not affect the organization.
The ruling stemmed from an incident in 2009 in which the CIP, a group that investigates police misconduct, filed a complaint against Lt. Freddy D'Agastino. Allegedly, D'Agastino had engaged in misconduct during a traffic stop. The Miami Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division investigated and determined that its findings were inconclusive due to lack of witnesses. The CIP then issued a subpoena to D'Agastino, calling for him to testify before its board.
D'Agastino and the Fraternal Order of Police filed lawsuits, claiming that the CIP's attempt to investigate the incident conflicted with the Police Bill of Rights (PBR) and Florida statutes.
Although the state Supreme Court has now ruled that the CIP will no longer be permitted to order an officer to testify while under investigation, the organization's heads do not think it will be negatively affected.
"Overall, I was pleased with the decision," Cristina Beamud, CIP's executive director, told the Florida Record. "The police unions argued that we shouldn't exist at all, and that's not what the court decided. The fact is the argument set forth by the unions, if accepted, would have crippled the CIP, but this ruling does not."
The court concluded that allowing the CIP to subpoena an investigated officer would "impermissibly countermand the rights conferred by the PBR upon the officer." But even though the CIP is restricted from such duties, the organization still possesses several other tactics that can efficiently hold the Miami Police Department accountable.
"We can still subpoena documents, witness officers and video and surveillance materials," Beamud said. "That maintains the ordinance that we operate under. Just one small bit of our ordinance is lost."
As for D'Agastino, the CIP plans to resume the case, but handle it from a different approach this time.
"We're reopening it now," Beamud said. "Clearly, we're not going to be able to get D'Augustino's statement, and that was really what this is all about. We will just have to [go] without it."