HAIL TO MIAMI BEACH POLICE CHIEF RAYMOND MARTINEZ
Suave, Urbane, and Cool as a Cucumber
March 7, 2014
By David Arthur Walters
Mayor Philip Levin’s announcement of the “retirement” of Police Chief Raymond Martinez was to be expected given his previous declaration at a Tuesday Breakfast Meeting that Martinez was on his way out because he, the mayor, was going to change the culture of the Miami Beach Police Department.
The mayor’s press release lauded the chief’s many years of distinguished service, but he failed to say that the mayor and his reform coalition on the commission were living in the past, and that their cultural move was vindictive.
In fact, Chief Martinez, with former Assistant Police Chief Mark Overton, had already accomplished significant positive changes in the police culture with the help of Miami Beach’s finest.
What incentive does anyone have to make any improvement at all with this kind of example that she or he will be forced out after making the improvement?
The resignation of Martinez follows on the heels of Overton’s resignation to become police chief for affluent Bal Harbour, where Jorge Gonzalez is now ensconced as city manager.
The resignations were obviously provoked by old hostilities cultivated by the new mayor, who expended over a million of his own dollars to emulate a strong mayor in a city that is supposed to have a weak mayor, strong apolitical city management system.
Whatever the motives for the resignations, it looks like good brass are abandoning ship just in time. No doubt several captains, hoping for promotion within, would like to have the job, although we marvel at their dedication. Who would want to be a police chief over several hundred cops engaged in a dangerous business where something can suddenly go wrong in a flash?
The bigger the bushel the more rotten apples will be found. And there are mistakes made by good cops in the heat of the moment. Guaranteed that the press is going to have at least a dozen incidents to report that will outrage the public, many of whom do not like cops let alone authority very much. Entrenched politicians will be “embarrassed.” The opposition will espouse reform and promise to fight corruption.
What the new police culture will look like remains to seen. New grunts on the street tell me that they do not have the slightest idea of what is going on upstairs, that they just follow orders. An older hand told me that he is getting out as soon as possible because of the changes. He said the effect of the culture being cultivated by the politicos will become obvious in its lack of “professionalism” and reversion to old-style policing.
The older I become, the less I want change. If there must be change, I prefer it to be a radical boost out of subtropical malaise. I was all for the huge convention center planned by the previous administration after I heard wide-eyed kids on the street marveling at the possibility. When Jorge Gonzalez was forced out, I advocated the firing of the top three officials in all city departments and divisions. I also advocated that the city have an elected police commissioner. Commissioner Deede Weithorn was the only one who would speak to my recommendations. She said that the ruination of the culture would damage the community not help it.
I changed my mind about the police department after observing considerable improvements around South Beach, where Capt. Mark Causey effectively carried out reforms for top brass. He has been reassigned to command North Beach.
I was especially pleased when the legendary Miami homicide detective John Buhrmaster and Miami Internal Affairs director Gary Shimminger were hired to run Internal Affairs for the City of Miami Beach. A program was footed to create a Corruption Unit and expand IA investigations to all city employees and officers no matter how highly placed. That turned out to be a pipe dream. Alas, Gary Shimminger dropped dead of a heart attack after jogging. Capt. David De Espriella, an old hand known for his introduction of neighborhood affairs officers to the community, was brought in to replace him for awhile. Now he is gone from IA, as is John Buhrmaster.
I am disappointed because I no longer know a soul in IA. Not that I have police misconduct to report: my interest is in public corruption, for which the city has a single officer, at last count, assigned to work with the FBI.
I am also disappointed because I no longer seen any officers I know around my neighborhood. Chief Martinez like other chiefs throughout the country has been gung-ho on neighborhood policing. I was absolutely enthusiastic about the concept until a cop told me last week that it fosters negligence and corruption because neighborhood cops get too close to people in the neighborhoods. On the other hand, he said, cops should live in the neighborhoods, but few do.
Chief Martinez and Assistant Chief Overton did the right thing by bringing outsiders into Internal Affairs, including a commander with a great deal of experience heading IA elsewhere.
Chief Martinez is certainly not an outsider but he responded effectively to the public clamor. That is his strong suit. He has come a long way since he was shot in the face and saved from death by a fellow officer. Suave and urbane, and cool as a cucumber, he leaves us with a positive impression on the street and on camera. He will continue to succeed in whatever he does.