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Officers in FBI Probe Cleared by Department

MIAMI -- Fourteen police officers facing federal corruption charges were investigated by their department for at least 293 allegations of misconduct, the Miami Herald reported.

The police department's internal investigations cleared the officers of all the accusations, which included witness reports or physical evidence of pistol whippings, broken noses and, in one case, rape, the newspaper said.

Critics say the department ignored the allegations to protect officers who have been with the force for the past 20 years. But Police Chief Raul Martinez defended his department and said that although it may have done a "lousy job disciplining these cases," there was no evidence of protection.

Lawyers for the officers say the allegations by police suspects are false.

"They are aggressive," said Richard Sharpstein, who represents officers Arturo Beguiristain and Jorge Castello. "That doesn't upset the citizenry, but it upsets the criminals, and they make bogus allegations."

In September, 14 members of special Miami police squads were charged in an FBI investigation into guns planted at crime scenes and lies to cover up wrongful police actions in four questionable shootings.

At least three people died in the shootings in the late 1990s. In one, a SWAT team fired 123 bullets into an apartment, then lied about finding a gun in a dead man's hand, the FBI said. Two unarmed robbers were shot in the back while fleeing, and a homeless man was shot in the leg.

Two officers pleaded guilty in the charges and will testify against their colleagues.

Copyright Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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