In a speech peppered with emotion, Juan Perez spoke of love for family, faith in God and admiration for fellow police officers after being sworn in as the director of the largest police department in the southeastern United States.
Perez, 48 and married with two daughters, is the second Cuban American to hold the position of director of the Miami-Dade Police Department. The department has 4,700 sworn and civilian personnel and stretches from the Florida Keys to the Broward County line.
Perez replaces the man he shadowed for the past three years as Deputy Director J.D. Patterson retired at the end of January.
In a colorful ceremony at the Carnival Cruise Line terminal at PortMiami on Thursday, Perez choked up several times while telling stories of his parents’ flight from Cuba aboard a small boat five decades ago. Then, as he has said several times since the appointment was announced last week, Perez said he was humbled by the promotion.
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“I will give all of me and promise to make this community as safe as possible,” he said.
The event, attended by several of Miami-Dade’s police chiefs, as well as state and federal law-enforcement leaders, began with an introduction of Perez by Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Gimenez.
“You’ve earned this community’s trust and earned our deep respect,” the mayor said.
Then Perez stepped to the podium with his daughters, wife Christina, and Miami-Dade Circuit Court Judge Bertila Soto. He placed his hand on a Bible, raised his right hand and was sworn into office.
Patterson then spoke briefly about Perez being a rookie on his squad when he joined the department 25 years ago. He also applauded the new director for taking charge when former Director Bobby Parker took his life last year while Patterson was out of town.
Just before Perez took to the spotlight, good friend and fellow officer Sgt. Eric Mendez told Perez’s story. He spoke of how Perez began his career as a loss-prevention officer at Burdines while he attended Florida International University. He spoke of how they fished together.
He told the crowd about all of the midnight shifts Perez had to work, his posts in the North and Midwest and South districts, and his leadership skills in Homeland Security and General Investigations.
“There’s something a little bit different about this officer,” Mendez said. “He showed leadership skills beyond his years.”