The Miami-Dade Police Department welcomed a new director on Monday, its third in four years.
Assistant Director George Perez takes over for now after a shake-up at county hall last week. He inherits a department in the middle of a two-year county plan to reduce shootings and increase patrols and surveillance.
"My message to my officers is that we are going to be fair, we are going to be equitable and we are going to be inclusive in our community," Perez said. "We are going to listen. I truly feel that the wisdom comes from the community."
Perez said he welcomes a civilian oversight board tasked with examining police misconduct, a program county commissioners agreed to fund again last year after the murder of George Floyd.
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“The first six months I’ll tell you I’ll want to work closely with the newly impaneled civilian review panel," he said. "I think it’s important because the community needs to feel that they are witnessed.”
On the need for improving relationships with the Black community, Perez has taken some steps to affect change. As assistant director, it was his decision to allow a group of Haitian protesters to shut down a street outside of an immigration office last year.
Initially, officers tried to clear the group — a decision that drew the ire of many after Cubans were allowed to shut down streets and expressways during protests weeks earlier.
“I think when you lead with faith and you lead with compassion and you lead with empathy, the work product is what it is for that person in time," he said. "I don’t worry about the politics.”
His first challenge could be just weeks away. The department is once again sending officers to work on the beach to deal with spring break crowds, a police presence some have said is more about race than unruly crowds.
“The story here is that MDPD is once again looked upon for assistance, looked upon and trusted upon to provide that support so we can produce a safe spring break. I think through education and leveraging our technology so we can identify that very small percentage of the population that wants to come and cause issues, that’s what we will continue to leverage.”