Hialeah Mayor Carlos Hernández said he would consider running for sheriff of Miami-Dade County if voters approve a constitutional amendment in November that would require elections for the county’s top police job.
“I do have the experience, with 22 years as police chief, mayor and administrator of Hialeah,” Hernández told el Nuevo Herald.
The constitutional amendment on the November ballot, called Proposal 13, if approved by 60 percent of statewide voters, would require the county’s top cop to be elected, instead of appointed, as Miami-Dade police director Juan Perez is now. Miami-Dade is the only county of the state’s 67 where the head of the countywide police force is appointed, not elected. Forty years ago, voters did away with the elected position after then-Sheriff T.A. Buchanan was indicted on corruption charges.
Amendment opponents say the measure would violate the county’s home rule charter, as it could pass on a statewide vote, even if Miami-Dade voters rejected it. In order for a constitutional amendment to pass, 60 percent of the state’s voters have to approve it.
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The amendment “is an insult to the citizens of Miami-Dade County, because that's a local matter,’’ said Hernández, who was elected in November to a four-year term but is term limited. “That's a decision that should be taken only by the residents of our county and not the entire state.
“I am going to vote against the change to make the sheriff an elected post, because that would politicize the police department. I believe the police must be as far away as possible from politics and focus on its work, which is to enforce the law without political considerations.”
The mayor used the example of Broward, “where the sheriff is more of a politician than head of a police department. During the tragic shooting in the Parkland school, the lack of supervision, training and leadership was evident.”
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel has come under attack for his agency’s handling of the Parkland shooting, including how the school resource officer at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High — a Broward Sheriff’s deputy — didn’t go into the building during Nikolas Cruz’s six-minute rampage.
Political consultant Sasha Tirador said Hernandez's announcement may unleash an intense electoral campaign because former county commissioner Joe Martinez, a retired police officer, has said he would be interested in the post, if it goes through.
“If there's a race between these two politicians, Joe Martinez will not survive because Carlos Hernández is an excellent candidate,” said Tirador, who has worked on the campaigns of both politicians.
Martinez said Tirador's comments are too early. “It's a long time away. They have to put it (the amendment) on the ballot and then there may be an election in 2020. We're still a long way from an election with candidates,” he said.
If the amendment were to pass, county voters would not be required to vote for the candidates to fill the position until 2020. The amendment calls for requiring counties to hold elections for five offices, including the top police job.
Follow Enrique Flor on Twitter @kikeflor