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Race Matters: ACLU, NAACP, State Rep. React

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) -- Citing a recent CBS4 News investigation, 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.

"In these critical days when our country's cities are again exploding, it is essential that complaints be brought and addressed," Adora Obo Nweze, president of the local chapter wrote to the commission's chairman, Jean Monestine. "We urge you to address this urgent matter."

Meanwhile, a state legislator, citing the same CBS4 series, is demanding the State Attorney either seal or erase nearly 300 arrests made by a specialized group of officers, calling the arrests "illegal."

CLICK HERE To Watch Jim DeFede's Report 

The CBS4 News series, Race Matters: Policing by the Numbers, focused on the work of a group of plainclothes Miami-Dade police officers - known as a Crime Suppression Team. The officers would ride around in unmarked cars in the South District, arresting hundreds of people, most of them young and black, for relatively minor offenses such as possession of a marijuana cigarette.

In addition to those arrested, the series also highlighted the police tactic known as a "saturation detail" in which officers move into predominantly black neighborhoods and proceed to stop everyone they encounter. Critics view it as a version of the controversial program known as "stop and frisk" where individuals are stopped, often on specious grounds, and are then searched.

CBS4 News showed that out of the 245 people who were arrested for misdemeanor pot possession, only two were ultimately convicted. Nevertheless the series revealed how the arrest themselves can impact the person's ability to find work, rent an apartment or even get a student loan.

In a press release, NAACP officials wrote they will "be initiating discussions with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Miami-Dade County State's Attorney's Office ...and the Miami Dade Police Department about the findings of the [CBS4 News] report."

In his letter to the State Attorney, State Rep. Kionne McGhee, who represents many of the individuals arrested by the Crime Suppression Team, described the results of the CBS4 News investigation "very disturbing."

"In particular, the research reveals that members of the South Dade Community have been arrested at an alarming rate compared to similarly situated communities," McGhee wrote. "Even more, the conviction rates related to the arrests prove more problematic."

The ACLU is also calling for a change in police procedures and tactics following the CBS4 series.

"We don't have to have this type of policing," Howard Simon, executive director for the ACLU in Florida, told CBS4 News. "And it seems to me that a careful look by the police administrators here would make a judgment that this is really a waste of police resources. This is not a bunch of bad apples, this is a police policy."

Simon said it was up to Miami-Dade Police Director JD Patterson to disband or substantially reign in the Crime Suppression Teams – also known as "the jump out boys" for their penchant of jumping out and surprising folks.

There are eleven Crime Suppression Teams operating across the county and he said their efforts are undermining the department's efforts to forge bonds with the community. The sentiment was echoed by Nusrat Choudhury, staff attorney for the ACLU's Racial Justice Project.

"It raises concerns when certain communities are targeted for crimes that are committed by all racial and ethnic communities equally," Choudhury said. "And marijuana possession is one of those crimes. It erodes the trust in law enforcement when a community feels it is being selectively targeted, especially for a non-violent crime."


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