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, Miami-Dade County and Coral Gables are among the applicants.
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.”
Applicants for the position so far:Hugo Barrera, special agent in charge
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 an 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 writer Julie Brown contributed to this report. Follow @Cveiga on Twitter.