Miami Gardens - Opa-locka

Miami Gardens narrows police chief field to four candidates

Interim Miami Gardens Police Chief Antonio Brooklen.
Interim Miami Gardens Police Chief Antonio Brooklen. City of Miami Gardens

After vetting more than 50 candidates, Miami Gardens has four final candidates for their vacant police chief position.

The four candidates: Delsa Bush, Craig McQueen, Rodney Smith and interim Chief Antonio Brooklen all come from Florida law enforcement agencies and have varied service backgrounds.

City Manager Cameron Benson said the applicant pool was first reduced to 10. Later, after additional interviews, he settled on the four.

“We’re working on getting everything we can get on them,” Benson said. “In general, I thought they were the top candidates.”

The city hopes to fill the position in the next month or so and to have someone in place for the expected opening of the new department headquarters at the city’s municipal complex, 18605 NW 27th Ave., later this year.

The position became vacant in late February when then-Chief Stephen Johnson was fired following his arrest in a Broward Sheriff’s Office prostitution sting. Johnson was hired in April 2014 after the exits of Chief Matthew Boyd and interim Chief Paul Miller as the department faced criticism over stop-and-frisk police tactics.

The new chief will be the fifth person to lead the department since 2013.

The four candidates have more than 100 years of combined law enforcement experience and three have served as chief, deputy chief or interim chief with their departments.

Bush most recently served as West Palm Beach’s police chief. She held that position from 2004 until her resignation in Oct. 2011. She began her work with the department back in 1983 and previously served as an assistant chief, captain and lieutenant. Bush earned both a doctorate in global leadership in 2009 and a master’s in criminal justice in 2001 from Lynn University in Boca Raton.

McQueen is a 33-year veteran of the Miami police department and has worked in various departments, including communications and overseeing the central and north patrol districts.

He served as a major from 2003 to 2015 until he was demoted 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.

McQueen defended his actions in an interview with the Herald in January and said his work with the league was about helping children not his own interests.

“There’s no personal gain in this,’’ McQueen said in January. “This program will always be about the community. I want kids walking through the front door, not coming through the back door in handcuffs.”

Smith is the lone candidate from outside of South Florida having served with the Ocala police department for 27 years. He is currently the department’s deputy police chief and had a month-long stint as interim police chief at the end of 2011.

According to his résumé, he also served as a criminal justice instructor at the College of Central Florida in Ocala from 1998 to 2013. He received a master’s in criminal justice from the University of Central Florida in 2005.

Rounding out the four candidates is Brooklen, who has led the force of more than 200 sworn officers since Johnson’s firing. He’s been with the Miami Gardens police department since its inception in 2007. Before that he served with the Miami-Dade police department and has been in law enforcement since 1994.

In 2009, he was demoted from major to captain due to poor performance reviews and also faced allegations of sexual harassment. In subsequent years, his evaluations improved and he moved up in the department to become a deputy chief before taking over for Johnson.

Benson said he is conducting interviews and hopes to find a well-rounded candidate to help stabilize the department.

“I think each of them has certain qualities that can assist us in moving the department forward,” Benson said.

Lance Dixon: 305-376-3708, @LDixon_3