Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The more things change...

Miami Herald video by Chuck Fadely

...the more they remain the same.

From the Miami Herald, Sept. 12, 2011
Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito fired

Miami Police Chief Miguel Exposito, who fought the mayor for more than a year and fought for his job in a hearing that stretched over three days, was fired Monday — but not before a sharply divided City Commission called for charter changes and cast a shadow over the future of City Manager Johnny Martinez.

After more than four hours of heated debate, commissioners voted 3-2 to uphold a decision by Martinez, who suspended Exposito last week for insubordination. When the vote was taken just before 2 p.m., reporters swarmed Exposito as he stood and hugged tearful family members.

“Elected officials have decided my service with the city must end,” said the 37-year veteran, who began his career as a police public service aide. “What it all boils down to is family, and I’m very proud of mine.”
From the Miami Herald, January 5, 1983

by CHARLES WHITED Herald Columnist

This is a tough town for top cops. Maybe it's the climate. Both Miami and Dade County have a stormy history of police chiefs.

In Miami, for example, predecessors of the man now taking the heat for Overtown's riot, Chief Kenneth Harms, also have endured their travails. Some have dished out as good as they received.

Walter E. Headley Jr. would understand.

A crusty, lantern-jawed, onetime sausage salesman, it was Headley more than any other man who created the modern city force, high on standards and motivation. He was of the old school, but aimed high.

Headley joined the force in 1937, a $100-a-month rookie. He became chief in 1948 and ruled with an iron will for 20 years until his death. He fought frequently with City Hall, brooked no meddling, once called his mayor "a pipsqueak." In the late 1960s, Headley stirred black wrath in Miami by marshaling guns and dogs against spiraling street crime in the ghettos.

"I'd rather be a citizen's cop," he would tell you, "than a politician's policeman."In an earlier era, the 1920s and '30s, the city force was always more muscle than brains. Leslie Quigg, a former amateur boxer, became chief in 1921 because he was good with his fists.

Quigg and three of his men were fired in 1928, indicted in the murder of a black bellhop. A white jury acquitted them. The grand jury called Quigg "unfit for office." But he was rehired nearly a decade later to serve seven more years as chief before being fired again in a tiff with city commissioners. He died in 1980.

In recent times, Harms' predecessor, Barnard Garmire , came to grief in other ways. Quiet and mild-mannered, Garmire was hired out of Tucson, Ariz., in 1969 and resented by his Miami troops as a "soft" outsider. Morale sagged. Police station graffiti sneered: "Mickey Mouse wears a Bernard Garmire watch." When a black undercover cop was beaten by three white officers who claimed they didn't recognize him, Garmire 's days were numbered in the ensuing uproar. He quit in 1974, under fire from Mayor Maurice Ferre.

Harms came up through the ranks from the Headley era and seems to me the sharpest and most able of the lot. An articulate professional widely recognized in law enforcement, today's chief already has weathered his share of City Hall storms. But like other chiefs, he is plagued by chronic troubles between police and blacks.Dade County sheriffs, moreover, have had troubles too.

The 1950 Kefauver Committee probe of gambling, racketeering and prostitution fingered Sheriff Smilin' Jimmy Sullivan as condoning a wide-open town and taking bribes on the side. Sullivan kept a fishing-tackle box stuffed with $12,000 in cash. Indicted, ousted and acquitted, he died in disgrace.

Tom Kelly, retired brigadier general, brought modern law enforcement to the sheriff's department. But his decade in office was marked by lawsuits and bitter political feuds. He was fired after the job became appointive under Metro, and he died in 1978 with a history of three heart attacks.

Talmadge A. Buchanan's regime as sheriff in four short years bogged down in scandal and cronyism. Ousted under a bribery indictment, but never tried, his political career fell apart. Beaten in a county judge's race in 1976, he stepped in front of a car and was killed. There were rumors of suicide.

E. Wilson Purdy, Buchanan's successor, ran the county force for 13 years. A teetotaling taskmaster, demanding and inflexible, he was fired by County Manager Merrett Stierheim in 1979 amid worsening Metro police relations with the black community and sagging morale. The new director, Bobby Jones, regarded as being as affable and flexible as Purdy was
unyielding, is in his third year.

Perspective on the past is helpful in times of stress. I agree with Harms' contention that his department generally does a good job, and that "we don't need to be abused."

But things have been worse. And abuse is nothing new.

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