Thursday, February 16, 2012

Who will be the next to wear the Miami Beach Police Chief's badge ?

Miami Beach is poised to pick its next police chief.

Last December, the Miami Herald reported that nearly 80 people had applied to fill the vacancy left by retiring police chief Carlos Noriega.

Last week, two screening panels submitted a list of four finalists who are now scheduled to undergo a final screening and interview process on Feb. 22.

What follows, are thumbnail sketches of each man.


Raymond Martinez, Miami Beach Police Asst. Police Chief and acting Miami Beach Police Chief.

A 22 year veteran of the Miami police department, Martinez was picked in Oct. 2001 by then Miami Beach Police Chief Don De Lucca to "handle administrative duties such as hiring, training and overseeing the annual budget," according to a Miami Herald story at the time. He has a Master’s degree in Public Administration from FIU.

Martinez is viewed by those familiar with the inner-workings of Miami Beach politics as a long shot to be the city's next chief.

Last September, Commissioner Ed Tobin told the Herald's David Smiley, “The present candidate for chief, the assistant chief, [Ray Martinez] has been here for 10 years and I would say that I think the police department needs some fresh blood for a lot of different reasons.”

In a Facebook post, Commissioner Jerry Libbin wrote, "I am fed up with the continuing revelations about our police department. That's why i have been adamant about the need for a new police chief who is committed to dealing with these issues and restoring confidence in the department. This means bringing in someone from the outside, as opposed to promoting from within."

Many department insiders view Martinez as someone who stood by and did nothing as the department became embroiled in one scandal after another under previous chiefs, including Noriega. Others fault him for having "zero personality."

Mark Overton, Hialeah Police Chief.

As police chief of Miami-Dade county's second largest city - one with a long history of corruption - Overton has managed to avoid any hint of scandal in his 28 years as a Hialeah cop. One person familiar with backgrounds of all the candidates calls Overton, "Tim Tebow in a police uniform."

Overton grew up in Hialeah and attended Hialeah High School.

In 2007, Overton told the Herald that he aspired to be a firefighter but changed his mind while working as a security guard at Hialeah Hospital in the early 80's. He graduated from the police academy in January 1984.

Thirteen years later, Overton was a lieutenant in the department's special investigations unit. A 1997 Miami Herald story detailed Overton's efforts to crack down on Hialeah's many illegal bars.
It's a scene Hialeah police, who have heightened crackdown on illegal bars in the past six months, say they find too often: Many of the same cafeterias that serve up lunchtime rice and beans and cafecitos are also acting as illegal bars, especially at night and weekends.

The maverick cafeterias become breeding grounds for violent crimes, drug sales and gambling.

Patrons bet on video games in back rooms. At the counters, employees pass along drugs with booze. Skimpily dressed bar girls who get a commission according to the number of drinks they sell, keep customers' glasses full. Arguments escalate into shootings and stabbings.
Overton estimates that more than 70 percent of the city's 459 licensed cafeterias, tucked away in the city's industrial sections or in plain sight at strip shopping centers, break the law regularly. It's easy and profitable, he said.

Frank Fernandez, former Miami Police Department Deputy Chief under John Timoney.

Fernandez joined the Miami Police Department in 1985 according to the City of Miami's website.

A 2005 Associated Press story offers some insight into Fernandez's style of policing. When the Miami Police Department announced it was adopting a new strategy against terror the AP reported,
Deputy Police Chief Frank Fernandez said officers might, for example, surround a bank building, check the IDs of everyone going in and out and hand out leaflets about terror threats.

"This is an in-your-face type of strategy. It's letting the terrorists know we are out there," Fernandez said.
"People are definitely going to notice it," Fernandez said. "We want that shock. We want that awe. But at the same time, we don't want people to feel their rights are being threatened. We need them to be our eyes and ears."
In 2007, as deputy chief under Timoney, 85% of the members of Miami PD's police union cast ballots saying they had no confidence in Fernandez.

In 2008, a Miami New Times story described Fernandez like this:
It's tough to find fault with Fernandez's record. In 23 years on the department, his only reprimands have come from minor accidents in his patrol car. And his personnel file shows him as a young sergeant's pet who received accolades for volunteering at seemingly every police event, including helping to run the '92 "Pig Bowl" football game (we couldn't make this stuff up). The schmoozing paid off: Fernandez went from a 19-year-old recruit making $6.94 an hour to his current position, which earns him $174,319 a year.
In Nov. 2009, Fernandez announced his retirement from the department which coincided with that of Timoney.

Some MBPD insiders say that Fernandez is is just what's needed to bring "real change" to the department, but "he is hated for his iron fist."

Tom Hunker, Chief of Police, Bal Harbour.

Chief of police of the tiny town of Bal Harbour since 2003, Hunker - a retired Miami Beach cop - is arguably the most controversial of the four finalists for the top job.

There are two camps within the MBPD: those who despise Hunker and those who love him.

One source tells me that Hunker "does not have the knowledge, skill or ability to be chief and has too many skeletons and too much political baggage to be an effective leader."

The source charges that "while on a drug raid in the 1970's at the Star Island mansion of the Zion Coptic Church, Hunker stole their custom made flag and displayed it in his office for years."

Others criticize Hunker for being too close to Miami Beach Commissioner Ed Tobin.

Last December, the Herald's David Smiley reported that anonymous posters on a forum frequented by cops, "questioned whether Tobin ’s entering the {Miami police] academy had anything to do with his relationship with Bal Harbour Police Chief Thomas Hunker and Hunker’s bid to become Miami Beach police chief.

"As a 13-year-old Explorer, Tobin came to know Hunker, then a Miami Beach police officer and advisor to the Explorers," wrote Smiley.

But, chief among the criticisms of Hunker is the role he played as supervisor of a June 1988 undercover drug sting that "went wrong."

Miami News, June 30, 1988.
When the botched operation was over, Scott Rakow, a much-admired 28 year-old Miami Beach cop was dead.

Twenty-four years later, those with knowledge of the case bitterly blame Hunker for Rakow's death.

In his 1996 book, Forgotten Heroes: Police Officers Killed in Dade County 1895-1995, author William Wilbanks cites a 1989 two-part Miami New Times investigation that "concluded that the sting was 'poorly planned and poorly executed' and should have been called off after several warning signs and that 'disastrous blunders' occurred during or before the sting."

(Read the full account of Rakow's death in Wilbanks' book by clicking here and then scroll up to page 206 to the beginning of the chapter.)

What kind of leader will Hunker be if he's picked?

Highlights of Hunker's tenure as Bal Harbour's chief include his purchase of a $100,000 police boat with seized drug money and increasing the frequency of DUI checkpoints on the stretch of Collins Avenue that runs through his little burg.

Some police department insiders call Hunker's management style, "reckless." A source likens Hunker to "Jimmy Hoffa."

City Manager Jorge Gonzalez is expected to select one of the four finalists by the end of this month. He'll then forward his recommendation to the city’s seven commissioners who will vote on who becomes the new police chief.


  1. I have seen Hunker as an 'Al Capone' type. True, he has many followers, but at the same time he pays them WELL to be on his side. If you get on the wrong side of Hunker- you are through.
    He is 'friends' with the Miami prosecutors office, so I doubt any serious investigation will ever be done on him locally.

  2. Hunker??? Hahahahahahahahahahaha.

  3. R.Martinez,delegated to training after he was shot running around a corner in the Grove in 1979.Buddy RodneyBarretto got him through the ranks as quick as possible.Went to the Beach to be with Rodneys brother then Police Chief Barretto.

  4. At least the loose canon Capone didnt make MBPD police chief.


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