The new Miami Gardens police chief will be a familiar face in the city.
City Manager Cameron Benson chose to keep Interim Chief Antonio Brooklen in the position permanently after conducting a nationwide search. Benson said his decision was based on numerous factors, including Brooklen’s familiarity with the city and his willingness to partner with other police departments.
“He’s been very visible to the community and he’s been very approachable to the community,” Benson said. “I think the local knowledge is very important, but he’s also reached out to other agencies.”
Brooklen has been in the interim position since late February when former chief Stephen Johnson was fired after his arrest in a Broward Sheriff’s Office prostitution sting.
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The city began its search process for Johnson’s full-time replacement during the summer and received more than 50 applications from candidates as far away as New York and Arizona. Benson settled on four finalists in September.
“I’m very humbled by the appointment of the city manager,” Brooklen said. “I’m very happy to help the community I was born in.”
Brooklen will take over the force after a few years of leadership changes and questions over police tactics. He is the city’s third full-time police chief, following Johnson and his predecessor Matthew Boyd. Boyd stepped down as top cop in late 2013 following a series of Miami Herald and other media reports on alleged stop-and-frisk tactics being used by the police.
The force also faced criticism after the fatal police shooting of Lavall Hall in February. Hall, a 25-year-old mentally ill man, was shot after an altercation in which police said he attacked officers with a broomstick. His mother, Catherine Daniels, has since sued the police department and the former chief.
The new chief has more than two decades of experience and has been with the city’s police department since it began in 2007. Before that he served with Miami-Dade County police. Early in his tenure with the city, he faced some issues including a demotion from major to captain in 2009 after an Internal Affairs investigation and allegations of sexual harassment.
He also received a 30-day unpaid suspension in 2009 after an Internal Affairs investigation determined he was in an “intimate personal relationship” with a former employee, according to his personnel file.
After those early issues, Brooklen’s evaluations improved and he eventually rose to the role of assistant chief. Residents and police officers also endorsed him for the full-time position at council meetings shortly after he replaced Johnson.
Brooklen oversees a force of more than 200 sworn officers, and the city plans to hire about 11 new officers this fiscal year. His salary will be $160,000.
“I’m ready to do more of the work the city of Miami Gardens needs,” Brooklen said.