William Hernandez was sworn in as North Miami Beach’s permanent police chief during Tuesday night’s council meeting. Council members also passed an ordinance that will make carrying marijuana a civil offense.
FROM INTERIM TO PERMANENT
After almost four months as North Miami Beach’s interim police chief, William Hernandez was sworn in as the city’s permanent police chief.
“I promise to do my very best in keeping our citizens safe, to help address those quality-of-life issues, to seek out those who wish to do us harm and to bring them to justice, and to be that symbol of peace to the city,” Hernandez said.
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During his time as interim chief, Hernandez focused on “the goals of the city’s strategic plan relating to public safety and the opportunity to recruit and retain the best law enforcement officers,” City Manager Ana Garcia said.
Before being interim chief, he started in North Miami Beach in 2014 as the deputy chief. He spearheaded uniform services, which oversees uniform patrol, community policing, special response units, marine patrol, the K-9 Unit, the field training program and motor units.
Prior to that, Hernandez spent 26 years at the Miami-Dade Police Department. As a lieutenant, he led sections including general investigations, administration, medical crimes, pharmaceutical diversion unit and was at one point police commander of the town of Cutler Bay.
The new chief was born in Los Angeles to Cuban immigrants, and raised in Westchester. He graduated from Southwest Miami High School and then Nova Southeastern University with a bachelor’s in criminal justice and a master’s in management and leadership.
Hernandez is the founder and has served as president of the Hispanic Police Officers Association, a not-for-profit foundation that assists law enforcement officers and their families who have been injured or killed in the line of duty.
“You have been the epitome of respect and integrity and I couldn’t be happier to bestow this honor upon you because you have earned it,” Garcia said before swearing in Hernandez.
FROM CRIMINAL TO CIVIL
Carrying marijuana is now a civil offense instead of a criminal offense in North Miami Beach.
The City Council unanimously approved an ordinance on second reading that lowers the bar for marijuana users.
“Similar to the neighboring counties and cities, and in accordance with North Miami Beach’s existing code violation program, the proposed ordinance makes the possession of marijuana in an amount of 20 grams or less and the possession of drug paraphernalia, which are deemed misdemeanors under state law, eligible for a civil code penalty of $100 for first-time violations and $250 for repeat violations within one year, instead of a criminal penalty,” Garcia said in a memo to the council.
The approved ordinance is similar to legislation recently adopted by Miami-Dade and Broward counties, Miami Beach and Hallandale Beach.
“Because this area of law is not preempted to the state, local governments may enact ordinances so long as they do not conflict with state law,” Garcia said. “Conflict would exist if the ordinance provided for a more severe penalty than prescribed by state law.”
The council said the ordinance’s adoption would provide a less-costly and less time-consuming option for police officers, and an opportunity to avoid the stigma associated with a criminal conviction.
“Filing criminal charges for possession of 20 grams or less of marijuana for personal use is expensive and time consuming for law enforcement officers, who would otherwise be spending their time addressing more serious crimes,” the ordinance reads.
Under the new ordinance, law enforcement officers have the discretion, based upon criteria set forth by the North Miami Beach Police Department, to issue civil citations under the city code, and arrest or not arrest adults for the misdemeanor under state law.
▪ When: 7:30 p.m. Jan. 19
▪ Where: City Hall, Second Floor, Council Chambers, 17011 NE 19th Ave.