The top cop in Miami Gardens is stepping down to tend to his sick mother and be close to family, the city announced Thursday.
Antonio Brooklen, 42, has been chief for a little more than a year, stepping in on an interim basis in February 2015, after the arrest of former chief Stephen Johnson in a Broward Sheriff’s prostitution sting. He was appointed to the permanent position in November 2015. His last day is Oct. 1, and assistant chief Cynthia Machanic will take over as interim police chief as the city searches for a replacement.
In a letter to City Manager Cameron Benson, Brooklen said he wanted to be closer to family and his ailing mother.
“The last few months have been challenging because I have been dealing with my mother’s fragile health condition and I feel that my attention is needed elsewhere,” Brooklen wrote. “At this time, my family must come first. My mother, wife and children are my heart and I live for them.”
He has been with the department since it started in 2007. Before coming to Miami Gardens, Brooklen spent about 13 years with the Miami-Dade Police Department where he became a lieutenant and oversaw the neighborhood resource unit.
Early in his tenure with Miami Gardens, he faced setbacks, including a demotion from major to captain in 2009 after an internal affairs investigation and allegations of sexual harassment.
He also received a 30-day unpaid suspension in 2009 after an internal affairs investigation determined he was in an “intimate personal relationship” with a former employee, according to his personnel file.
After those early issues, Brooklen’s evaluations improved, and he rose to the role of assistant chief, then chief.
His replacement, Machanic, is also a law enforcement veteran with more than 30 years of experience. She came out of retirement to join the Miami Gardens police force and spent most of her career with Miami-Dade police, including stints in internal affairs and major fraud.
“As he leaves, we send Chief Brooklen and his family our prayers and wish them the best as they continue to deal with his mother’s serious medical situation,” Benson said in a memo to the police department.