There’s a new chief in town, but Opa-locka apparently doesn’t know it.
And neither do the two people who have been — and think they still are — chief and deputy chief.
In a quagmire that’s weird even by Opa-locka standards, North Miami’s mayor, Andre Pierre, announced Tuesday in a newsletter emailed to about 100 constituents that two of North Miami’s veteran officers have been tapped to run the police department in neighboring Opa-locka, a city that has struggled for years with poverty, crime and corruption.
It’s not an easy job. Opa-locka has had a revolving door of police chiefs: 12 in the past two decades.
But if Opa-locka has a new chief, someone didn’t tell the city manager, who is in charge of hiring.
Kelvin Baker insisted Wednesday that he hasn’t hired anyone to replace the force’s current chief, Cheryl Cason or the deputy chief, Antonio Sanchez.At a commission meeting Wednesday evening, a resident expressed outrage over the report, published online by The Miami Herald earlier in the day, that the city had hired a new chief — at least, according to North Miami’s mayor. Opa-locka Mayor Myra Taylor said that it was not true and that you cannot believe everything you read.
Cason is planning on retiring, Baker said, but they have a long way to go before hiring her replacement. The Miami-Herald was unsuccessful in reaching Cason Wednesday.
“The rumor has taken on a life of its own,’’ said Baker, who was hired six months ago amid a series of scandals that had tainted the city’s police force. At the time, several state probes were underway involving allegations of criminal wrongdoing on the force.
In the newsletter, Pierre extended his best wishes to North Miami Police Cmdr. Jeffrey Key, who he said has been hired as Opa-locka’s chief, and officer Peter Cruz, who has been hired as his deputy.
Both officers have already had their send-offs and have left their current posts.
“They’ve submitted their letters of resignation to the police chief,” Pierre said. “I think they had a goodbye party for them already.”
Key, who began his police career in Opa-locka, is the son-in-law of the late Robert Ingram, Opa-locka’s former mayor. Cruz, who ran North Miami’s Police Athletic League, has had a number of internal affairs complaints against him since joining NMPD in 1985. Florida Department of Law Enforcement records show two complaints: one for perjury and another for providing false statements. Both were dismissed. The Miami-Herald was unsuccessful in reaching either Key or Cruz Wednesday.
North Miami’s city manger, Stephen Johnson, confirmed that the officers have been hired in Opa-locka.
“I don’t’ know about what Opa-locka is saying now. I can only go by what our officers are telling us,” Johnson said.
Pierre said he is surprised that Baker is calling the appointments rumors.
“I spoke to them personally,’’ Pierre said, of the two NMPD officers. “They are going to work in the city of Opa-locka. I think everything has been negotiated, including salary.”
The officers announced their new jobs sometime last week at a command staff meeting, Pierre added.
Baker called the announcement by the two officers “overzealous” and that the information has been “taken out of context.’’