J.D. Patterson, a 30-year veteran officer who worked his way up the ranks from street cop to acting director, was appointed Friday morning to lead the Miami-Dade Police Department.
County Mayor Carlos Gimenez made the announcement in a packed room on the second floor of County Hall.
Patterson, a graduate of Miami Jackson Senior High and Barry University, and who received a master’s degree from the University of Miami, has been acting director since August, when Jim Loftus unexpectedly retired. He is 52 years old, has been married 28 years and has two children.
"I know it took some time for me to make the decision, but we wanted to make the right one," Gimenez said.
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"We support the mayor's decision. We work very well with the new director," said Miami-Dade's police union president John Rivera. "He has a steady presence and he has the experience and training to get the job done."
Patterson said tackling crime and a lack of resources are his biggest priorities.
He called the appointment "humbling" and said he was running "one of the finest departments in the nation."
A licensed minister at Mount Sinai Baptist Church, Patterson said if he can resolve conflict in a nonviolent way, that's his preferred option.
"When I play basketball I start talking trash like I'm in the NBA, but after the game is over, it's over. So put down the guns. This is not a war zone, it's a city," Patterson said. "Our community needs to have an honest dialogue about violence.”
Also Friday, the mayor also is unveiling a 141-page election reform packet, reflecting ideas developed by a 14-member Election Advisory Group over the past two months.
The group was created after an avalanche of criticism followed the November presidential election, after some voters were stuck at polls in Miami-Dade well past midnight.
Gimenez, who is leading the task force, and his Supervisor of Elections Penelope Townsley, are expected to outline dozens of proposed changes they hope will smooth the way for the more than 1 million registered county voters during future elections.
After seeing the plan Friday morning, the panel will offer tweaks or go along with the mayor’s blueprint. The group has discussed numerous fixes on a state and local level, including opening more polling sites and adding voting days.
They’ve also discussed limiting the number of referendums on an election ballot, expanding the number of county employees working the election and using enhanced technology. Some reforms may require state legislation.
During a meeting earlier this month, Gimenez asked the group to decide the maximum length of time a voter should have to wait in line.
Regarding the search for a new police director, the administration previously had narrowed its list to six candidates.
They were: Maj. Adrianne M. Byrd, a 17-year veteran overseeing financial crimes; Randy Heller, a 20-year officer now serving as acting assistant director and chief of operations for the county’s north end; Maj. Delma K. Noel-Pratt, head of the Kendall District; Juan J. Perez, division chief for south operations; Alfredo Ramirez III, a major in the homicide division; and Patterson.
Patterson has worked his way up through the ranks. He has been a commander over neighborhood policing in Carol City, a uniform patrol commander in Miami Lakes, and investigated sex crimes. He also investigated citizen’s complaints for the internal affairs unit.