Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Miami Gardens police chief position draws dozens of applicants

After the unexpected exit of their former police chief, Stephen Johnson, due to his arrest in a prostitution sting, Miami Gardens has received dozens of applications for a new police department leader.

More than 50 people have applied for the job, according to information provided to the Miami Herald through a public-records request. The list includes applicants from across the country, from departments as far west as Arizona and as far north as Galway, N.Y., and several from local agencies, including the Miami, Miami-Dade County and Opa-locka police departments.

City Manager Cameron Benson began advertising the position in April and received applications for a month.

He said the city hopes to have someone leading the force by the middle of the summer and will likely recruit a panel to narrow down the applicant pool over the next few weeks.

Interim Chief Antonio Brooklen has been in charge of the force since February after Johnson was fired. Johnson was initially hired in spring 2014 to guide the department following a series of Miami Herald and other media reports on alleged stop-and-frisk tactics being used by the police. He apologized for soliciting the prostitutes the day after his arrest and blamed his actions on “stress.” He previously served as city manager of North Miami and police chief of that city’s department.

Brooklen is among the applicants for the position and served with the Miami Gardens police department since it began in 2007. His law-enforcement career began in 1994 with Miami-Dade police. A few years after he joined Miami Gardens as a major he was demoted and faced allegations of sexual harassment.

Since then, Brooklen’s evaluations improved and he served as a deputy chief before taking over after Johnson. Some residents and police officers have endorsed him for the full-time position at recent city meetings.

“I wholeheartedly respect the process that’s taken in order to choose the right person for the position of chief of police. We are here to support Interim Chief Antonio Brooklen,” officer Alberto Seda said at a City Council meeting in May.

The new top cop will take over a few months after the city and police department have dealt with community backlash over the fatal police shooting of Lavall Hall in February. Hall, a 25-year-old mentally ill man, was shot after an altercation where police said he attacked officers with a broomstick. His mother, Catherine Daniels, has since sued the city and the former chief.

The department hopes to hire 15 new police officers this year and move into a new headquarters in the city’s municipal complex at 18605 NW 27th Ave.

Applicants for the position include several officers who have served with South Florida departments:

▪ Craig McQueen, a 33-year veteran of the Miami police department, was demoted earlier this year from major to captain after a review of his emails found that he was conducting business for the Greater Miami South Florida Pop Warner youth football league during work hours.

▪ Tyrone White, who serves with the Miami-Dade police department, was fired in a case similar to McQueen’s, after internal affairs said he used his computer during work hours to coordinate activities for his unofficial charity flag football team and for misappropriating funds.

White sued the county in 2013, alleging that the investigation was illegal. He won and got his job back and is now a captain with the department. He was previously a major with the force.

▪ Robert Daniels, who was placed on paid administrative leave as police chief of North Bay Village in March, has served with the village’s force since 2010. The department was criticized by some residents over their response to a string of burglaries. Village Manager Frank Rollason told the Herald the decision was based on a departmental performance review.

▪ Louis Vega, who stepped down a year ago as assistant chief of the Opa-locka police department. Vega had previously served in Miami and New York City and unsuccessfully applied for the Miami Beach police chief position in 2011.

▪ David Golt, who served for four years as Broward County Schools Police Chief before resigning in June 2014. He was previously a deputy chief in Pembroke Pines.

▪ Frank Bocanegra, who served more than 30 years with Miami-Dade police and as town manager of Miami Lakes. He made a career change and became a lawyer in 2008, and has since opened his own practice.

The other applicants come from more than 16 states and Washington, D.C. The list includes applicants with experience in other Florida departments, including Boynton Beach, Lighthouse Point and Florida A&M University’s campus police.