MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Change is coming to a couple of Miami-Dade police departments. As a group of Miami-Dade police cadets graduate into the department, The Miami Beach Police Department will become one of the first in the country to make a potentially life-saving change in the weapons officers use.
Miami Beach Police officers will begin using a shotgun that fires bean bags instead of bullets. “Over the next six weeks, we will train the entire department on the weapon and the tactics accompanying the use of the weapon,” said Miami Beach Police Chief Daniel Oates.
Miami Beach Police are one of several law enforcement agencies in South Florida making the change to the non-lethal shotguns. “Sometime in November, this weapon will be made available on the street, and at the same time, we are going to take out lethal shotguns off the street,” said Oates. “We’re going to retire that weapon.”
There will initially be 40 Miami Beach Police officers using the shotguns.
“Our job is to do everything we can to avoid using deadly force,” said Oates.
The national dialogue about the use of lethal force by law enforcement has been well documented, but even in the current climate, the Miami-Dade Police Department graduated a record 141 future officers, Wednesday.
“They are really prepared for the challenges that we face out there,” said Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez. “[They’re] really prepared with the concept of community policing and enhancing relationships with the community.”
John Rivera, the president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, said the new officers will face a set of challenges. “While it’s a great infusion, remember that this department has been working with historic shortage,” he said.
New officer Christopher Zabaleta told 7News he can’t believe his days at the police academy have come to an end. “I’m still in shock. I still can’t believe I’m standing right here with a badge on my shoulder,” he said.
The new graduates, and those officials responsible for the changes in the weapons they will use, are hoping to turn their vision of a better future between law enforcement and the community into a reality.
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