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Back to Archives | Back to May 2005 Contents 

112th Annual IACP Conference - History of the Host Departments

History of the Host Departments

Miami Beach Police Department

Chief Donald W. De Lucca
Chief Donald W. De Lucca
In 1913 John Collins and Carl Fisher embarked on an agriculture venture on a piece of oceanfront property and began building a bridge across the bay. The bridge, which at the time was the longest wooden bridge in the world, stretched from Miami across the bay to the area now known as Miami Beach. Development on the island began soon after, and Miami Beach was incorporated on March 26, 1915.

After World War I, the city hired two police officers, a chief and a patrolman. As the city and the department grew, communication between headquarters and the patrolmen was handled through call boxes strategically placed throughout the city. Red lights placed above the boxes and would be lit as calls came in. Officers would then call the station and be assigned a specific call or detail.

After World War II broke out, the city was virtually converted into a U.S. Army Air Corps training facility. The army took over the city, and the police department worked hand-in-hand with the provost marshal. Peace came in 1945 and the Army left Miami Beach in 1946. It was then that Miami Beach came into its own. People from all areas began to play and vacation in Miami Beach.

The 1950s and 1960s were all about glamour. Television’s Jackie Gleason Show was televised from the Miami Beach Auditorium. Celebrities were constantly visiting the city. Miami Beach was on the A-list. The rapidly growing police department consisted of 57 officers and several part-timers.

By the 1970s, Miami Beach was becoming the retirement destination for thousands. In 1972 Miami Beach hosted both the Democratic and Republican national conventions. Thousands of antiwar protesters came to Miami Beach to demonstrate. Miami Beach Police Chief Rocky Pomerance, the president of IACP from 1974-1975, received international acclaim for his leadership, his professionalism, and his department’s handling of the events during the conventions.

In 1984 television producer Michael Mann put Miami Beach back on the A-list with the production of the hit television show Miami Vice. In Miami Vice, the city of Miami Beach was virtually a character in its own right. Each week’s episode began with a catalogue of Miami Beach iconography: sun-baked beach houses, Cuban-American festivals, women in bikinis, and postmodern pastel cityscapes. Mann insisted that significant portions of the program be shot in Miami Beach, which helped to give the show its distinctive look.

In 1987 the police department moved from its original station to its current headquarters at 11th Street and Washington Avenue. The area directly in front of the building was dedicated as the Rocky Pomerance Plaza.

By the 1990s, the Miami Beach Police Department had grown to more than 250 officers and had become the third largest police department in Miami-Dade County. Modern police concepts such as community policing became very popular and the police department quickly embraced the philosophy behind it. Officers began patrolling on bicycles and walking the beats.

Towards the end of the 1990s the police department began to prepare for the new millennium. Not knowing what to expect, and because Miami Beach had become the place to ring in the New Year, the entire police department was mobilized. Hundreds of thousands of visitors and residents celebrated the start of the new millennium without incident.

Today, the Miami Beach Police Department consists of more than 380 sworn officers and more than 200 nonsworn employees who serve an area of close to eight square miles. These members of the police department serve and protect close to 100,000 full-time residents and the millions of visitors to Miami Beach each year. A police substation now exists to serve the visitors and residents in the northern parts of the city. Officers patrol the city using cars, motorcycles, boats, all-terrain vehicles, electric cars, bicycles, and even roller blades. A state-of-the-art communications center is housed at the headquarters building, and patrol cars are equipped with laptop computers.

The Miami Beach Police Department is accredited through the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) and the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation (CFA).
As the city continues to grow in popularity, the Miami Beach Police Department stands ready to meet the challenges associated with the success of our area. Each and every day, our officers live up to our mission statement: “We are a team of law enforcement professionals committed to setting the benchmark for quality police service by promoting strong community partnerships and upholding the highest ethical standards.”

Miami Police Department

Chief John F. Timoney
Chief John F. Timoney
It was more than 100 years ago when Miami was born (July 28, 1896) and Young F. Gray, a dynamite expert for Henry Flagler’s construction projects, was elected the first marshal of the young city. The lone lawman until 1898, he proudly patrolled Miami with his goat-drawn wagon, collecting stray dogs and unwanted lawbreakers in a city of 1,500.

The adoption of a new city charter in 1905 would call for the replacement of the marshal position with that of chief of police, legislating the Miami Police Department (MPD) into existence two years later. Led by Chief Frank B. Hardee, the four-man force, with billy clubs and .32-caliber Smith & Wessons at hand, aimed to alleviate the city’s growing pains of drunkenness, fighting, and prostitution.

Beginning in 1911, a new era of growth for MPD brought ambitious new Chief Robert Ferguson, who pioneered the implementation of the horse-drawn paddy wagon, plainclothes officers, mounted patrol, traffic squad, and a motorcycle policeman. By 1921 MPD boasted the finest identification process in the South as modernism kicked in with the expansion of the innovative Bertillon Fingerprinting System. That year, Miami’s first policewoman, Ida Fisher, joined the department; one that would be radically transformed under Chief Leslie Quigg and would grow from 40 to 352 members five years later. His staunch leadership led to the installment of a police radio system in the 1930s, the first police training school, and a black precinct in the 1940s.

A new black precinct was built in 1950 at the direction of Chief Walter Headley Jr. that remained in existence until 1962, the year that marked the integration of the department. The creation of a professional police academy, the adoption of the drunkometer, the acquisition of polygraphs, and the founding of the first modern scientific criminal laboratory in the South stood among the highlights of Headley’s administration.

In 1974 Chief Bernard Garmire led the “modern Miami Police Department,” with police community relations on his list of priorities. That same year, the Public Service Aide Program was established, one of the nation’s first paraprofessional apprenticeships. By 1979 the department had installed one of the first integrated criminal apprehension programs under the mentorship of Chief Kenneth Harms.

In 1980 the City of Miami was faced with the largest influx of people from Cuba. The Mariel Boatlift brought more than 125,000 refugees to the Florida shores in the space of six months. The arrival of such a large number of Cuban immigrants put new burdens on the police department’s resources.

Racial tension and the civil disturbances of the 1980s led to more community oriented policing methods. In 1984 Miami swore in its first black police chief, Clarence Dickson. His successor, and the second black chief of the Miami Police Department, Perry L. Anderson Jr., was appointed in 1988.

The department’s genuine concern for the youth led in 1990 to the creation of the Do the Right Thing Program, which builds self-esteem by recognizing socially positive accomplishments and behavior. Two years later, under the guidance of Chief Calvin Ross, the Miami Police Department reaffirmed its commitment to its citizens by creating the Neighborhood Enhancement Team (NET) program. HEROS (Helping Enforcement Reach Our Streets), a community interactive initiative, followed by volunteer programs such as Citizens on Patrol, the Citizens Police Academy, Police Explorers, and the Police Athletic League.

The Miami Police Department reinforced its status and reputation of excellence in November 1995 by joining the 318 state and local law enforcement agencies in attaining accreditation through CALEA (Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies Inc.). The year 1996 marked an important milestone as the department celebrated its first 100 years of service.

Throughout the 1990s Miami played host to several historic events. Among these events: the Summit of the Americas, during which 33 heads of state met in our city. The visit of Pope John Paul II; meetings of the International Conference of Mayors and the International Association of Chiefs of Police; and the 1996 Olympic Soccer Games.

As the world prepared to welcome the 21st century, many challenges faced the law enforcement community. Miami, an internationally renowned city, was no exception. Fortunately, after many months of meticulous planning and preparing for the many New Year’s Eve celebrations, the millennium got off to a great start. In 2000 the multicultural City of Miami swore in its first Hispanic chief of police, Raul Martinez.

In 2001 the September 11 terrorist attacks on our nation drastically changed our way of life and posed new challenges for the law enforcement community. Miami police rushed to assist the New York Police Department while tending to an overwhelming increase in calls for service, ranging from bomb threats to suspicious persons and possible chemical substances. When the dust settled, MPD went to work to obtain the most modern technological equipment and institute the most advance training for its officers, so that they could effectively meet challenges and better protect the citizens of our city.

In November 2003 the Miami Police Department was once again the focus of the entire world, when it hosted one of the most complex multiagency endeavors, the Free Trade Area of the Americas Conference (FTAA). In September 2004 the Miami Police Department also played a vital role in an event of both national and international importance, the first presidential debate of the 2004 campaign.

Now boasting more than 1,000 sworn officers and 400 civilian employees, the Miami Police Department, under the direction of Chief John F. Timoney, has experienced significant development and a steady decrease in its crime statistics. Year-end figures for 2004 reflected the lowest crime rates since 1993. Also in keeping with a police structure commensurate with the needs of a growing city, Miami’s NET Centers now feature 22 neighborhood resource officers and nine commanders. Innovative programs such as Do the Right Thing and HEROS continue to forge true partnerships between government and its people.

As one of the finest agencies in America, the nationally accredited Miami Police Department strives to maintain its commitment to providing exemplary service to the city’s documented population of more than 400,000 and a service population of more than a million, as the legend of the Miami Police Department continues on its path of excellence in law enforcement.

Miami-Dade Police Department

Director Robert Parker
Director Robert Parker
Today’s Miami-Dade Police Department (MDPD) combines state-of-the-art technology with a proud tradition of service to our community. Miami-Dade County was established in 1836 and encompassed an area that now comprises Miami-Dade, Broward, Palm Beach, and Martin Counties. In the early years, the area was policed by as few as three deputies on horseback. Miami-Dade’s county seat was moved from Juno to Miami in 1899, when the population of Miami was approximately 5,000. Prior to that time, the governor appointed Dade’s sheriffs. From the turn of the century through 1966, the office of the sheriff was an elected position.

By 1950 Dade County’s population had grown to 495,000, and the jurisdiction area had been reduced to approximately its present 2,139 square miles. The metropolitan form of government was approved in 1957, and the Dade County Sheriff’s Office was subsequently renamed the Public Safety Department (PSD).

In 1960, in addition to providing countywide police services, the agency assumed responsibility for police operations at the Port of Miami and Miami International Airport. The department had a complement of 623 sworn personnel that year.

In 1966, with a department composed of approximately 850 sworn officers, a long-standing controversy over the procedure for choosing a county sheriff was resolved by voter mandate. Subsequently, sheriffs were not elected but were appointed by the county manager as director of the public safety department and sheriff of metropolitan Dade County.

The PSD’s organizational structure, as determined by the metropolitan charter, included responsibility for fire protection, the jail and stockade, civil defense, animal control, and motor vehicle inspection, in addition to police functions.

By 1973, however, the department had been divested of ancillary responsibilities in order to concentrate entirely on police services. The department’s sworn complement consisted of approximately 1,200 officers. During the 1970s, great strides were made toward professionalizing the department through development of innovative community programs, standard operating procedures, rules and regulations, and departmental training programs. By July 1981, the department was reorganized and renamed the Metro-Dade Police Department. As the complexity of its challenges grew, the department expanded its size and skills to keep pace. This expansion was characterized not only by the acquisition of the latest equipment but also by the training and educational programs offered to its officers. Examples include Survival City, where officers are trained in physical surroundings that replicate those found in our neighborhoods, and a master’s degree program in management sponsored by the University of Miami.

In September 1997 Dade County voters decided to rename the county Miami-Dade County. In December of the same year, the department was renamed the Miami-Dade Police Department.

With a combined work force of 5,016 employees (3,105 sworn and 1,911 civilian) the department enjoys a reputation for excellence and local incidents have gained worldwide prominence. The November 2, 1995, hijacking of a Dade County Public School bus with special-needs children on board was relayed across the world on CNN and other news channels. The successful resolution of the crisis by the department’s special response team (SRT) was also broadcast. The world also shared the horrors of the May 11, 1996, crash of ValuJet flight 592 in the Florida Everglades. MDPD police divers donned protective clothing to protect against biological hazards and submerged themselves in the muck, searching for victims and equipment while alligators and water snakes swam nearby.

On January 30, 2003, an armed gunman took a U.S. Postal Service mail carrier as a hostage during an attempted robbery in northern Miami-Dade County. As the situation unfolded, millions of people throughout the world followed the events on their televisions.

In addition to traditional units such as robbery and homicide, the department has also recently established different specialized units. To combat crimes against visitors to Miami-Dade County, the department created the tourist oriented police (TOP) program using police personnel with special skills. An in-flight video was prepared as an advisory for travelers, and welcome brochures identified TOP officers and the location of police assistance throughout the airport. Specific officers are stationed in and around the airport to offer guidance to newcomers.

After the increased publicity and outrage at domestic-related crimes, the MDPD created the Domestic Crimes Bureau that coordinated all departmental activities related to domestic violence and family crimes. The bureau is an investigative entity of the Criminal Investigations Division and comprises four investigative units: domestic violence, child exploitation, elderly abuse, and missing persons. In addition to carrying out their assigned functions, investigators make referrals to agencies offering direct services not of a police nature.

As a result of innovative programs, the MDPD is recognized as one of the leading law enforcement agencies in the nation.


From The Police Chief, vol. 72, no. 5, May 2005. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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