Miami-Dade County

Four Miami police chief finalists make public appearance

Deputy Dallas Police Chief Malik Aziz speaks to the media after his interview Thursday with Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso.
Deputy Dallas Police Chief Malik Aziz speaks to the media after his interview Thursday with Miami City Manager Daniel Alfonso. David Smiley

The hunt for Miami’s next police chief narrowed to four candidates Thursday, and the public got a peek at the city’s next top cop.

Will it be Malik Aziz, deputy chief of the Dallas Police Department? Hugo Barrera, special agent in charge of the Miami Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives? Or one of two internal Miami police candidates: Deputy Chief Luis Cabrera and Assistant Chief Rodolfo Llanes?

The finalists gathered early afternoon at Miami City Hall, where they were summoned by City Manager Daniel Alfonso for a question-and-answer session with him, a small gaggle of media and about a dozen members of the public. They answered mostly softball questions about the war on drugs, police militarization, police shootings and their knowledge of the city’s complicated hiring process.

None bombed, and outside of Llanes being asked why he was demoted from major to lieutenant by controversial former chief Miguel Exposito — “I don’t know,” he said — there were no pointed questions. Only Cabrera showed up in police garb.

The finalists will be vetted by Alfonso during the next month before he announces his choice to replace current Chief Manuel Orosa, who is retiring at the end of January. Whoever gets the post will oversee an expanding 1,200-officer department with a brash union and persistent gun violence in the inner city

“This is a very important decision for me as a city manager and the city of Miami as a whole,” Alfonso said Thursday ahead of a meeting with the candidates in City Hall’s second floor offices. “I have accepted the fact that, as I was told in a commission meeting a couple of months ago, how that person performs is going to be reflective on me.”

The finalists weren’t selected by Alfonso. Instead, they were first whittled from a list of 55 by the human resources department, and then down to 10 by a committee. That number dropped to four after a review by Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernandez Rundle, Public Defender Carlos Martinez, Miami-Dade Police Chief J.D. Patterson, and Miami Fire Chief Maurice Kemp and Deputy City Attorney John Greco.

The committee went with:

  • Aziz, a 22-year Dallas Police veteran and chairman of the Naitonal Black Police Association. He oversees support services in Dallas and has served as event commander for the massive Texas State Fair.
  • Barrera, who worked as a Miami homicide detective before joining ATFE in the 1980s. He also oversees ATFE operations in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
  • Cabrera, a longtime veteran of the Miami police department and former assistant city manager. He oversees administration and the budget for the department, and touted his knowledge of the force as a boon to the city.
  • Llanes, who oversees internal affairs and special investigations for Miami PD. He’s currently heading up Miami’s pilot body-camera program for officers.

Alfonso said he held a public forum Thursday to introduce the public to the finalists and watch them interact with the community. “I appreciate the transparency of it,”said Commissioner Keon Hardemon, who was in the audience.

Alfonso is expected to announce his choice at the end of the month or in December. Both he and Miami’s elected officials say the commission has stayed out of the process, and there has been no discussion of favorite candidates, although there are some who question whether that’s true.

“It would be nice to see a city manager that makes a decision based on the candidate’s experience, knowledge of our culture and challenges, and leadership qualities, instead of what some political forces may want,” police union president Sgt. Javier Ortiz wrote in a text. “I believe Mr. Alfonso will make the right decision for the residents and our police force. Unlike other managers, he seems to be his own man.”