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Feds launch investigation of Miami Police

MIAMI, June 3 (UPI) -- The Justice Department launched an investigation Monday into allegations the Miami Police Department killed several black men without cause and committed other civil-rights violations.

The investigation by the Civil Rights Division was requested by Chief Raul Martinez after heavy pressure from the African-American community.

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"We welcome the review by the U.S. Attorney's Office, and we again pledge to cooperate fully," Martinez said.

U.S. Attorney Guy Lewis said the probe will be conducted by 10 to 12 civil rights investigators and will take three to six months.

Last year, 13 Miami police officers were indicted in connection with three fatal shootings. All of the victims were black men.

"It didn't look good -- allegations of weapons being thrown down, of cover-ups occurring, of officers lying," Lewis said. "Without hesitation, the chief indicated we should absolutely move forward (with the investigation)."

Charles Wellons, an aide to Rep. Carrie Meek, D-Fla., who has been calling for the investigation, said a similar investigation was conducted last year after the riots in Cincinnati.

"If you look at Cincinnati, they made some positive changes. Not everything was done that needed to be done, but some steps were taken in hopes of getting to the right place," Wellons said. "This is not a cure-all. This is a beginning point in the process."

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Meek has called for a similar investigation of the Miami-Dade County Police, but the Justice Department declined last week. County police have shot and killed four crime suspects this year; three were black men.

One of the victims was Eddie Macklin Jr., who was fatally shot during a Martin Luther King Day celebration while he was driving a stolen car. He was unarmed.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Alex Penelas is pushing for an independent civilian oversight panel to investigate police shootings. An important vote on the issue is set for the County Commission meeting Tuesday.

If a majority of the 13 commission members approve, it will go before the voters in a fall referendum.

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