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Deputy Internal Affairs Commander John Buhrmaster
INTERNAL AFFAIRS AND PUBLIC CORRUPTION
An Internal Affairs/Public Corruption Unit of the City of Miami Beach Police Department is being tested for eventual approval
By David Arthur Walters March 29, 2013 MIAMI BEACH—The Miami Beach Police Department is responding to the public perception that the city’s government has been pervaded by criminal and moral corruption for many years, and that its entrenched bureaucracy has been unwilling or unable to diligently and adequately investigate all complaints filed and report criminal and administrative misconduct to prosecutors and administrators responsible for disciplining public officials and employees. The Police Department is tentatively expanding the scope of its Internal Affairs investigations of police personnel to all city personnel, including the rank and file, administrators, and elected officials. The trial Internal Affairs/Public Corruption Unit is commanded by Capt. Gary Shimminger and Deputy Commander John Buhrmaster. “We were lucky to get these two to head the unit,” said Assistant Chief of Police Mark Overton, former Chief of Police of the City of Hialeah. “They really complement each other, and their expertise is unparalleled.” Shimminger, with over 31 years in law enforcement, recently retired from the Miami-Dade Police Department as the major in charge of its Internal Affairs Unit, which was responsible for
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“If the deputy chief or chief or I receive a valid complaint.000 cases or more each year. bec ause of its “current and foreseeable workload commitments. It appears that such a process would indeed extend the normal function of Internal Affairs over all departments of government. commonly investigates all complaints where serious misconduct may be involved whether there is evidence of criminality or not. the Florida Department of Law Enforcement will be contacted to investigate the complaint. when asked why the Public Corruption Unit would investigate. he said that negligence might very well involve corruption. even those that police departments around the country are accused of dismissing offhand as “dog poop. whether or not independent of its police force. handling complaints against county police officers. “will address non-sworn departmental personnel. Buhrmaster retired from the City of Miami Police Department as police captain in 2012 with 38 years of law enforcement under his belt. if approved. the reports may be useful to administrators for fashioning policies and to legislators for forging remedies. their rank could be classified as a detective. Overton. Policing policies are tailored to the needs of communities. as well as city employees.” Page 2 of 4 . In Florida. Thomas University. 25 of those years in the homicide unit. but the agency’s Miami-Dade County inspector declined to do so for the City of Miami Beach. and do not need to be sergeants. he said that. ” As for complaints filed against the police chief or the assistant police chief or the head of the Internal Affairs/Public Corruption Unit.” he responded when asked if incidents of all types would get the same attention as major crime investigations. but an Internal Affairs agency. Even where there is no negligence.MIAMI MIRROR – TRUE REFLECTIONS handling 1. The City of Miami Beach averages about 60 criminal and administrative misconduct complaints filed each year. He took an interest in management early on and obtained degrees from Barry University and St. He said he had a total of 70 personnel.” Shimminger said. a public record report would be generated which can be a basis for disciplining the employees. no matter how minor . 10 of those as its commander. supervised by a sergeant. He received numerous commendations and medals for his work and is accurately described as a “legendary” homicide detective. but if none were found. for example.” “The new Public Corruption Unit . in a letter to a city attorney dated Feb. 2013.” “All investigations will be addressed and investigated thoroughly. including administrative issues that might expose a department to legal liability if neglected. 20. He said the unit will need at least three more investigators to make headway with the new program when it is approved. including 55 sergeants/investigators. currently investigated by 6 sergeants. These could entail long term pro-active investigations. the Office of the Inspector General may provide a facility to investigate and report on maladministration of a city. complaints against Building Department employees for negligence.
The main issue is the independence of the police department in its entirety. and even retaliating against individuals who make them. commissioners. The MBPD responded to the swelling complaints. and not the servant of a politician. executive. city managers. and legislative functions while carrying out the will of the people expressed by their government. Miami Beach officials are frequently accused of simply ignoring complaints. The forceful and sometimes deadly power wielded by law enforcement is considered to be an executive function. Yet a police force should be independent of the judicial. Page 3 of 4 . We usually think of three branches of government. the police are the public. Police departments as well as other professional bodies are persistently accused of being unwilling to investigate their own. police officers should not pander to public opinion. The best Internal Affairs practice is to conduct regular compliance audits: “professional complainers. such as citizens’ boards and review committees. since the chronic complaint may be chronic because of chronic abuse. judge. and do so equally.MIAMI MIRROR – TRUE REFLECTIONS City officials including police officials are often dogged by chronic complainers. The City of Miami Beach Police Department was admittedly losing respect. lawmaker. interact with investigators. not picking and choosing between violations and violators. That is why respect is so important to police officers: it is the basis of their power. and should obey and enforce all of the laws. health and morality. those reports being made available to the public. and completely independent investigative bodies staffed by lawyers and trained police investigators. and considerable improvements have made. All formal branches are involved in the general policing power of the state. without which they could lose not only their livelihood but their lives. People perform better when being observed. independently of the bureaucracy. Without the respect of the public. There is one thing above all that police departments must do to main respect: respond to complaints. no police department is legitimate nor can it endure for long. and observers may notice defects in general procedures and policies that can be corrected. The compulsory and continuous presence of professional observers or inspectors called “monitors” has been useful in several respects. Therefore several sorts of remedies have been tried. Internal Affairs units staffed by police officers throughout the nation have themselves been accused of negligence and corruption including political manipulation by mayors. are engaged to file complaints. All have demonstrable faults. Still. People blamed not only its officers but the feudal system of the entrenched bureaucracy. Nothing is perfect in this life hence there is always room for improvement. or entrenched bureaucrat. and report back to management. That is. yet the best practice of any Internal Affairs unit is to consolidate duplications and investigate every complaint. which is absolutely prohibited by Internal Affairs policy. city attorneys and the like. the regulation of behavior for the improvement of public safety.” persons similar to “professional shoppers” in the private sector.
but it must be remembered that it has in fact investigated Miami Beach officers. In fact. the complaint of complaints of Internal Affairs investigators in this country is that around 90% of their recommendations to prosecute are not prosecuted because prosecutors are unable to get juries to convict because of the prejudices of the jurors and judges. ## Page 4 of 4 . Since it could be given cause to investigate members of the entrenched bureaucracy and the political elite. and that some officers were suspended and fired.MIAMI MIRROR – TRUE REFLECTIONS Internal Affairs usually gets a lot of flak. The Internal Affairs/Public Corruption Unit. we shall see if they have the wisdom to provide an adequate budget if the pilot program is productive. yet several were reinstated by judicial process. now being tested in the City of Miami Beach will be one the improvements the independent police department wants to make.
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