For the second time in two years, the Miami Gardens Police Department is searching for a permanent police chief and more than 20 candidates have applied for the top cop spot.
The city received 22 applications for the position including a mix of previous applicants with experience in local law enforcement and some outsiders from agencies in Mississippi, California and Virginia. Miami Gardens has been without a permanent chief since Antonio Brooklen resigned last September.
City Manager Cameron Benson said he has narrowed the field to 11 finalists and will be conducting interviews over the next two weeks with plans to further winnow the list to two or three by early next month.
“The biggest criteria was that I was looking for people with experience in upper management as a major or above,” Benson said.
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One of the finalists, Miami police Maj. Craig McQueen, also sought the position when it was open in early 2015. McQueen was also a finalist during the last search, from a field of more than 50 applicants, before the city chose Brooklen.
Some of the finalists are from local departments including Miami Deputy Police Chief Luis Cabrera, Miami-Dade Schools Police Chief Ian Moffett, Miami-Dade North Operations Division Chief Mirtha Ramos and Miami-Dade Special Investigations Division Chief Delma Noel-Pratt.
Miami Gardens Capt. James Hughes and Miami Gardens Maj. Rafael Suarez are also among the finalists. Interim Police Chief Cynthia Machanic did not apply for the job.
Miami Gardens will be looking for stability in a position that has been held by five people on a permanent or interim basis since 2013. Machanic, who joined the department as assistant chief last April, has been interim chief since Brooklen stepped down and has more than 30 years of law enforcement experience.
The past two chiefs faced controversy surrounding their exits. Stephen Johnson, who was chief for less than a year, was fired in late February 2015 after he was arrested in a Broward Sheriff’s Office prostitution sting. Brooklen replaced him and eventually stepped down amid allegations of sexual harassment.
Benson said those issues are guiding his selection process.
He said he hopes the next chief can balance community involvement with solidifying the command staff and organizational structure of the department.
“Becoming the police chief can’t just be the accomplishment. It has to be someone who wants to be out in the community and to engage themselves with the troops and with the officers,” Benson said.
Before Johnson and Brooklen, the last full-time chief was Matthew Boyd, who stepped down shortly after the owner of the 207 Quickstop convenience store alleged in a lawsuit that Miami Gardens police officers routinely harassed his employees and customers. The Miami Herald first reported on the lawsuit in November 2013 and Boyd resigned the next month.
The city plans to have the new chief in place before next month’s Jazz in the Gardens festival.