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Drug Related Police Corruption: The Miami Experience (From Police Misconduct: A Reader for the 21st Century, P 132-144, 2001, Michael J. Palmiotto, ed. -- See NCJ-193774)

NCJ Number
Kim M. Lersch
Date Published
13 pages
In the late 1980's, nearly 10 percent of the entire Miami Police Department (Florida) was suspended or fired after a drug-related scandal; this paper explores the events that led up to this corruption scandal, and lessons are drawn for other police agencies.
Miami is first profiled as a city of change and unrest in the 1970's and 1980's, followed by an overview of the nature and impact of the Cuban migration to Miami beginning in the mid-1960's, which included criminals released by Castro from Cuban jails for migration to the United States, ex-convicts, and nearly 600 immigrants with various mental illnesses. Next, the author examines the relaxed screening mechanisms for police applicants under consent decrees and affirmative action policies in the early 1980's. Among the new officers recruited by the Miami Police Department (MPD) during a hiring blitz under lax standards was a group of 19 Hispanic officers who became known as the River Cops. These officers were eventually charged with a variety of State and Federal crimes, including using the MPD as a racketeering enterprise to commit such felonies as murder, threats that involved murder, civil rights violations, robbery, possession of narcotics, and various conspiracies. The officers were convicted of a variety of offenses and given prison sentences that averaged 23 years. This paper traces the evolution of the corrupt and criminal careers of these officers. Along with the River Cops, however, the Miami of the early 1980's was marked by a number of highly publicized scandals that involved questionable acts committed by persons of power and influence. During this same period, other cities were experiencing problems with the behavior of their officers. The U.S. General Accounting Office (1998) in its review of recent cases of drug-related corruption, identified a number of prevention techniques designed to reduce the prevalence of corruption. Among the suggested means were making a commitment to integrity from the rank-and-file officers to top administrators; establishing and enforcing standards of accountability; raising employment standards; extending the officer probationary period and establishing an independent body to oversee agency personnel and the internal affairs unit; and a strong commitment to community policing. 20 references