Bal Harbour’s new police chief wants to move his department forward in the wake of a federal investigation for alleged misspending that cost his predecessor his job.
Chief Mark Overton, who was appointed in January, said that since taking the job, he has worked consistently to learn about his new position. He said his goal is to add community policing.
"There was a big emphasis on the task force that they had before," he said. "I'd like it to be community-oriented and community policing based including high uniform and visible patrol. I believe it is a primary objective of what the residents want."
Just recently, the Village Council approved the purchase bicycles and golf carts for police officers to patrol the village, which was recommended by Overton and Village Manager Jorge Gonzalez.
Gonzalez was city manager in Miami Beach, where Overton was the deputy police chief.
"We are starting a bicycle unit and golf carts to patrol the beach and areas we can't get through right now," Gonzalez said. "It"s an area difficult to patrol in a police vehicle.”
Overton joined Miami Beach as the second-in-command after retiring from his position as chief of police in Hialeah, where he had served for almost 30 years.
In Bal Harbour, he took over the position once held by Police Chief Thomas Hunker, another former Miami Beach cop.
Bal Harbour dismissed Hunker in March 2013, after a federal investigation alleged misspending of money seized from drug dealers and money launderers.
Though the Justice Department has not filed criminal charges against anyone in the Bal Harbour department, it did suspend the village from the federal forfeiture program, and demanded the prompt return of more than $4 million the village had received.
Overton said he wants the department to forget the past.
"The agency suffers and the officers suffer from it too," he said. "Whatever the findings were, well, it is what it is and we are going to have to deal with them. We need to put this behind us."
Currently, he said there are about 30 employees working for the police department, including about 19 police officers. He would like to hire three additional people, preferably officers. Overton said he'd also like to look into adding technology to the police department including a computer data dispatch system.
"It is automated," he said. "It allows us to track data and accurately pick what is going on to analyze. We are looking into license plate readers also."