Miami-Dade County

What’s the top cop doing at a doughnut shop? It’s not what you think

Miami-Dade Police and public meet up at Dunkin' Donuts

Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez met the public on Thursday and talked about criminal justice issues over coffee and doughnuts.
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Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez met the public on Thursday and talked about criminal justice issues over coffee and doughnuts.

When a customer in a red truck pulled up to a Dunkin’ Donuts drive-through window Thursday morning, an unexpected guest leaned out with his order.

“If it tastes better than ever, I made it!” said the director of the nation’s eighth-largest police force, as he passed the coffee to the customer. “If not, I didn’t!”

Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez hosted “Coffee with the Top Cop” at a new Dunkin’ Donuts in Doral. A handful of residents showed up to the new Northwest 36th Street location — some on purpose, some by accident — for some coffee talk with Perez and other officers during the hour-long meet up. The cops harkened back to the days of old, munching doughnuts and chatting up the locals who wandered in.

Perez served customers, posed for plenty of photos (could you believe, no selfies?) and sipped a coffee (regular, with cream — “I’m cutting back on sugar.”).

“This is a way for the community to have the opportunity to meet me, our officers and see that we’re all the same,” he said. “We’re all community members, we all live here. We just want to make this place safer for everybody, including ourselves.”

Stephanie King, who is 72 and lives in unincorporated Miami-Dade County, came to ask how she and others can help promote safety in her neighborhood. Cops she spoke with encouraged her to attend community action meetings held by the county.

“I think so many of us sit at home, wring our hands and say ‘Isn’t [the violence] terrible?’ But we don’t really know what we can do,” King said. “That’s why I’m here.”

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Miami-Dade County Police Director Juan J. Perez takes a picture with the Dunkin' Donuts crew at 7330 NW 36th St. as the Miami-Dade police officers host a public meet-up on Thursday, June 15, 2017. C.M. GUERRERO

Ethan Greer of Miami Beach wanted advice on how to join the force.

“I know that it’s really competitive so I just came to get some advice,” said the 26-year-old Greer. “They suggested that I go on a ride-along to see what the career is like.”

One customer came across the cops by chance. Albert Susi, of Boynton Beach, came to use the restroom but ended up chatting with a department spokesman.

“We were just shooting the breeze,” said Susi, 56. “I think this is all awesome. It’s great they do this.”

A department spokesman said he hopes people will walk away from the event feeling more familiar with officers on the force.

“When you get to meet an officer at a personal level like today, it’s always nice when you run into them in the street,” said spokesman Carlos Rosario. “You know who they are.”

We asked what you want to know from Director Juan Perez. His answers below:

Question: Is the MDPD properly staffed to handle critical situations such as terrorist attacks?

Answer: “As far as our staffing, the good thing about Miami-Dade County overall is that there’s a lot of agencies out there. We are the largest in the southeast United States,” Perez said. “We have the luxury of being able to flip a switch and put out a thousand officers on the street if I need to at any given time in one shift. ... We provide assistance to the smaller agencies if there’s a need.”

Question: How often does the agency conduct drills to deal with terrorist attacks in our county?

Answer: “It takes plans to conduct large-scale drills, but we do routinely throughout the year train our officers and there’s mandatory training we put our officers through. We take it as an opportunity to address trends, whether it’s a shooter or terrorist attack, and how to handle those.”

Question: What is being done in the department to identify officers who may have issues (stress, personal issues, etc.) that may affect their judgment while on the job?

Answer: “Because of the size of our agency, we maintain a psychological services section that is staffed with two doctors and several counselors who help with stress management and any counseling that is required of officers having marital problems, drinking problems. If there’s a critical incident with a shooting or the death of a small child, they come out as well to counsel the officers and make sure they are mentally stable.”

Question: Is there a mechanism in place while recruiting new officers into the force to identify those who may pose a threat?

Answer: “We have a psychological examination with a lie detector, a robust background check, all the routine things law enforcement agencies go through. ... It probably takes anywhere from nine months to a year to become a police officer.”