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South Miami choosing finalists for police chief

Current Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez and South Miami Acting Police Chief Rene Landa are finalists in the running to become South Miami’s new police chief, the city manager there confirmed Tuesday.

Candidates from Hialeah and Coral Gables are also being considered as finalists, said City Manager Steven Alexander. He did not give additional names, saying the city is still whittling down its list to five candidates who will interview with a selection panel and separately with the city manager.

Alexander said he also plans to hold a public session for residents to ask the finalists questions.

Under South Miami’s City Charter, the city manager appoints department heads subject to approval by a majority of the City Commission.

South Miami has been without a police chief since August, when Orlando Martinez de Castro was forced out. He has a pending lawsuit against the city regarding contract issues.

The city has since conducted its own search for a replacement. Alexander said about 10 qualified applicants, mostly from South Florida, submitted resumes.

After Martinez de Castro’s departure, Landa was appointed acting chief by the city manager. Landa was previously an officer in Miami and served as the South Miami Police Department’s spokesman.

Martinez is a law enforcement veteran of more than 30 years. He served as the Miami Beach police department’s second-in-command for more than a decade, and has been top cop since March 2012. He previously was an officer in Miami. He still has a bullet lodged in his neck after he was shot by burglars while investigating a warehouse break-in.

Miami Beach recently lost its number two cop, former Deputy Chief Mark Overton, to Bal Harbour. He was recently named chief there.

South Miami’s Chief of Police Search Committee is made up of three law enforcement professionals from around Miami-Dade County: Golden Beach Chief of Police Don De Lucca, formerly Miami Beach’s top cop; North Miami Assistant Police Chief Leonard Burgess; and Miami-Dade Deputy Police Director Juan Perez.

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