North Miami Beach Police Chief Rafael Hernandez was fired Monday -- and another two dozen cops may soon be without a job -- as city officials look for a way to balance a $7.5 million budget.
Hernandez was fired by City Manager Lyndon Bonner just a day before he was expected to present budget-cutting suggestions to the City Council, claiming administrative reasons, according to the Miami Herald.
Bonner had asked Hernandez to find $3.9 million worth of cuts in his department, or 52 percent of the projected $7.5 million shortfall out of the city's $43.4 million budget. The police department accounts for 52 percent of the budget, or $22.7 million.
One proposal would see the city dropping 24 police officers, a cut of 20 percent of its force, as well as 13 civilian employees.
Mayor George Vallejo said the layoffs may be necessary if the police department can't find another way to trim the $3.9 million.
"If no other options are brought back, based on the budget and the revenues we have we would be forced to lay off police officers," Vallejo told the Herald.
Vallejo told NBC Miami that Hernandez was trying to create a more efficient department, but he also said Hernandez’s ideas and priorities didn’t line up with the direction the city management wanted to go.
Police union representative Mike Pons said Hernandez was disappointed when he got the news.
"The chief is very disappointed, he loves this department and he loves this community," Pons said.
Pons told the Herald that the city may be blowing the shortfall out of proportion.
"The city hasn’t opened their books or their working documents to us yet," Pons told the newspaper. "The city is saving money on the backs of the employees."
Pons also said that a lot of officers working on the street had be counseled to keep their minds clear when in the field from what is going on at city hall.
Meanwhile, Vallejo said the budget crunch is having a huge impact on the city’s finances.
"Morale is one of the top concerns but at the same time if the money is not there, we have to do something because we can't give somebody a paycheck that's going to bounce," Vallejo said.
Officers are expected to hold a protest over the proposed cuts Tuesday at North Miami Beach City Hall.