Coral Gables

Miami Beach

Two top Coral Gables cops apply to be Miami Beach police chief

Coral Gables’ police chief and another senior Gables officer are among the people who have applied for the top job in the Miami Beach Police Department.

Dennis Weiner has been chief of the Coral Gables Police Department since 2011. His current salary is about $163,000 per year. As a Navy reservist, he was on military leave from March 2012 to January 2013, serving in the military police at the Guantánamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.

When Weiner first joined the Coral Gables force, he was criticized for not moving to the city for nearly a year after joining the department. He commuted from his home in Juno Beach, in northern Palm Beach County, charging the city for his nearly three-hour commute. He and his wife bought a home in December 2013 in Palmetto Bay.

The other applicant from the Gables is Maj. Scott Masington, who serves as commander of the Technical Services Division, according to his résumé. He has about 24 years of law enforcement experience, according to his résumé.

Masington is one of four majors who report to the chief in Coral Gables. He has been with the city since 1992. His current salary is $109,040.

Ever since Miami Beach Police Chief Raymond Martinez announced his surprise early retirement, the city has been quietly interviewing candidates to fill the soon-to-be vacant position.

At least 11 people have applied in writing, according to résumés obtained by the Miami Herald through a public-records request. Current law enforcement leaders from Miami Gardens and Miami-Dade County also are among the applicants.

Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales said he also has spoken with other applicants who did not submit written applications. That would protect their privacy, because most documents supplied to a government agency in Florida become public record.

Unlike previous public processes to find a chief for the about 500-member police department, Morales has largely conducted the current search behind closed doors.

Chuck Wexler, of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), was recently involved in an audit of Miami Beach’s police department. His organization has helped police departments across the country find new leaders.

“Every city is different, and they will look to a broader search if they have challenges and issues,” Wexler said. “You can’t wait for people to apply if you have active issues. You have to identify a person and reach out.”

In an email to the Miami Herald, Morales wrote that PERF had identified some candidates elsewhere in the nation. In a memo to city commissioners, Morales wrote that he had reached out to his contacts throughout the state to identify candidates within Florida.

“I have been interviewing candidates,” Morales wrote in an email to the Herald. “Once I identify the person that I believe is most qualified to be our Police Chief, I will submit that name to the Mayor and Commission for their approval in accordance with the City Charter.”

In addition to the two Coral Gables applicants, others who’ve applied for the position include:

•  Hugo Barrera, special agent in charge of the Miami Field Division of the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. In 2011, Barrera served on a selection committee for a new Miami police chief.

•  Alexander Bebris, director of public safety and chief of police and fire for the city of Oakwood, Ohio, since 2006. He has also worked as a university instructor in Wisconsin and has served on numerous boards and professional organizations, according to his résumé.

• John Buhrmaster, d eputy chief of the Miami Beach Police Department and 38-year veteran of the Miami Police Department.

• Thomas Cannon, assistant Miami police chief from 2007 to 2010, according to his résumé. He worked for the department for 29 years.

• Jeffrey Gorley, public safety manager for the Passaic, N.J., Housing Authority. Gorley also has years of experience in South Florida with various community agencies and consultancies focused on crime reduction, human rights and race issues.

• Paul Miller, who recently stepped down as deputy police chief of Miami Gardens — a position he had held since 2008, according to his résumé. The Miami Gardens department has been rocked by a federal lawsuit alleging racial profiling by city police.

• James Moyer, currently the assistant police chief of Davie. He has about 25 years of law enforcement experience, according to his résumé.

•  Charles Nanney, a major in the warrants and robbery bureaus of the Miami-Dade Police Department, where he has worked for about 27 years, according to his résumé.

• Rafael Suarez, a captain and currently the commander of the Investigations Division of the Miami Gardens Police Department, according to his résumé.

Martinez had planned to leave this month, but agreed to stay longer — probably until mid-May. He is one of many high-ranking city officials to leave the Beach after sweeping changes in the city’s administration and elected commission.

The Miami Beach Police Department has been the subject of unflattering news coverage for years — garnering widespread publicity after a wild Memorial Day, 2011, shooting that left a man dead and four bystanders wounded. About a month later, an officer drunkenly took a bachelorette for a ride on the beach in a all-terrain vehicle and ran over two people on the sand, prosecutors say.

Martinez took over the department shortly after those incidents, having served previously served as second-in-command. Though the stream of embarrassing stories slowed during his tenure, the department still has had issues.

Most recently, control of the city’s 911 call center was yanked from the police department and handed to City Hall after WPLG-ABC 10 aired pictures of dispatchers who appeared to be asleep on the job. The police department contends there is no way to tell whether the employees were on the clock when the pictures were taken, and that it is not uncommon for dispatchers to sleep between long overtime shifts — though now they are directed to do so in a break room.

Still, Martinez points to decreased complaints of police using excessive force, and fewer cases of officers intentionally firing their weapons, as signs that the department is working better under his almost three-year tenure as chief.

Miami Herald staff writers Julie Brown and Joan Chrissos contributed to this report. Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.

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