Miami Beach City Commissioner Ed Tobin is ready to leave public office and pursue his boyhood dream of becoming a cop.
But a city ordinance that prohibits elected officials from working for the city for two years after they leave office — an ordinance Tobin helped pass in 2009 — would prevent him from applying for a police job.
So Tobin, who will turn 53 soon, is asking his fellow commissioners to grant him a waiver from the ordinance at Wednesday night’s City Commission meeting. This would require a super-majority of five votes on the seven-member commission — and Tobin would have to recuse himself from the vote.
In a memo to the city’s administration, he states his intention of applying to become a Miami Beach police officer if allowed. Tobin, a commissioner for seven years, would resign from his seat before his term expires in November 2015 if he could get a badge and join the force as an entry-level patrol officer.
“I don’t know if I’ll even get it,” Tobin told the Miami Herald. “But if I get it, I’d love to do it. I’m a third-generation Beach guy, and I love my community. So given the opportunity, I know I can contribute.”
From Tobin’s place on the City Commission, where the city’s administration answers to him and his colleagues, he would make the unusual transition to being a street-level cop who answers to the command staff and police chief.
If he succeeds, he would leave a vacancy on the commission that would have to be filled either through an appointment approved by a majority of the City Commission or a special election, according to the city charter.
City Attorney Raul Aguila said the charter does not outline any specific process for the appointment.
“That’s pretty much up to them,” he said. “They would have to discuss that at a meeting.”
Aguila said the Miami-Dade Elections Department estimated a special election with no other questions on the ballot could cost the city about $260,000.
Tobin has made his law-enforcement aspirations obvious over the years. He completed training at the Miami police academy in 2011, calling the experience the “best six months of my life.” He has gone through several police leadership training programs. He spent his teenage years in the Miami Beach Police Explorers program, and volunteered afterward.
Throughout his 30 years as a lawyer, which includes time as a prosecutor in Broward County and a partner at his namesake criminal-defense firm, he said he has had the itch to be a cop. He isn’t getting any younger but has stayed in great shape, he said.
Tobin said he is not trying to the bend the rule he helped to create, emphasizing that the ordinance allows the commission to decide when an exception could serve the public interest.
“My colleagues will have to decide, and the rule says if it’s in the best interest of the community, they can grant a waiver,” he said. “I hope that they see that I can be asset and a contributor.”
Tuesday, Mayor Philip Levine said he supports Tobin’s dream, and is not worried about whether the waiver would open up the city to more elected officials seeking jobs because he sees Tobin’s case as unique.
“He’s not looking to enrich himself. He’s not looking for a high-level position,” Levine said. “I think it would be different if Commissioner [Jonah] Wolfson or Commissioner [Michael] Grieco said they wanted to be the city attorney.”
Grieco echoed Levine.
“In this circumstance, you have a man who’s had a 40-year dream of being a beat cop, a uniformed police officer,” he said. “I don’t see any downside or any cronyism that comes along with this.”
Alex Bello, president of the Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police, declined to comment for this story.
Asked whether this might set a precedent for elected officials seeking city jobs after their service ends, Tobin said he had thought about the waiver request only in terms of his specific situation, and that he isn’t concerned.
“I just want the opportunity to be like everyone else,” he said.
Police Chief Dan Oates said he hasn’t encountered a situation in which an elected leader wanted to step down to become a beat cop, but he has told Tobin the same thing he would tell anyone aspiring to police work.
“It’s a great profession and you should pursue your dreams,” he said.
Oates said Tobin would get no special treatment, and that he would be evaluated the same as any other candidate for a beginning police job — including a written test, a psychological evaluation and a fitness exam.
Currently, the police department has about 13 openings.
Should Tobin get the waiver and a job offer, he wants to walk a nighttime beat.
“Midnights in the south would be my dream,” he said.
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