Editorials

Kudos to the chief

Retiring Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa at a September news conference.
Retiring Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa at a September news conference. C.M. Guerrero

The Miami Police Department is about to get a new chief — and there’s not a scandal to blame for the changing of the guard. How refreshing.

Miami police chiefs have been lightning rods for controversy for years. Here are some names that still resonate: Kenneth Harms, Donald Warshaw, John Timoney and Miguel Exposito.

The process of naming a new chief this time is important, yet routine. And that is a credit to retiring Chief Manuel Orosa, 57. He deserves a tip of the hat from the community as he prepares to end a 34-year-career that began in 1980 — the year of the Mariel Boatlift and the McDuffie riots.

With a steady hand and little fanfare, Mr. Orosa quietly brought back professionalism to a department reeling from a Department of Justice investigation into the fatal shootings of nine black men culminating in 2011, the year Mr. Orosa took over.

The chief sent a stern message to the rank-and-file that stemmed the wave of police-involved shootings. He quickly reintroduced a mixture of discipline, accountability and a return to basics, he told the Editorial Board. “We got back to the fundamentals of policing.” To the rank-and-file, “I wanted to send a message that I was firm, but fair.”

Mr. Orosa dismantled the plainclothes tactical teams whose members were responsible for many of the shootings. To appease a community suspicious of the investigations into the shootings by the 1,200-member force, a special team of investigators now handles those cases. Mr. Orosa would like to see FDLE take over, duplicating a recent move by Miami-Dade police.

Mr. Orosa also opened channels of communication with the community. He hosted breakfasts with black clergy to try to repair long-tattered relationships; he welcomed input by all Miami residents on the policing of their neighborhoods.

He managed to reduce crime every year as chief, a feat he cited among his proudest. With better news from the department, he opened the door to reporters, often accompanied by his media specialist, Maj. Delrish Moss.

“You have to be out there in the community,” the chief said. “I wanted my interactions to be face-to-face.”

As he departs, negotiations are under way between the DOJ and the city attorney’s office to determine how the department will be monitored.

As he calls it a career — his wife and three children will see more of him now — Mr. Orosa deserves gratitude from the residents of Miami, where he arrived with his parents as a 3-year-old aboard a boat from Cuba.

It’s imperative the city’s next police chief is committed to building on this progress and has the proven know-how and temperament to do so. The new chief must realize that Miamians in disenfranchised communities want relief from deadly gang crime, accomplished without every resident seen as a suspect. The hunt is now down to four candidates: Malik Aziz, deputy chief of the Dallas Police Department; Hugo Barrera, special agent in charge of the Miami Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; Miami Police Deputy Chief Luis Cabrera and Assistant Chief Rodolfo Llanes.

On Thursday, the finalists visited Miami City Hall for a meet-and-greet with City Manager Daniel Alfonso, who’ll pick the new chief.

“This is a very important decision for me as a city manager and the city of Miami as a whole,” Mr. Alfonso told the Miami Herald.

We couldn’t agree more.

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