Last Week, The Miami Herald published an article announcing plans to end Miami Beach Police Chief Carlos Noriega’s term earlier than his December retirement. Amidst recent scandals involving Miami Beach police officers, the reports that Noriega’s days might be limited come as little surprise.
Since personnel matters are handled through City Manager Jorge Gonzalez, all signs point to his discretion in the said topic. Miami Beach police spokesman Detective Juan Sanchez said that “Noriega is unaware of any such talk,” deferring to Gonzalez for additional information. Voicemails left for Gonzalez went unreturned. Additional phone calls were made to Mayor Matti Herrera Bower’s office, however little was revealed except that a resolution isn’t imminent and that Herrera Bower has yet to meet with Noriega.
Noriega is a 27-year veteran, who was appointed police chief in 2007. Since then he has dealt with incidents involving his department, such as two officers beating and wrongfully arresting two gay men in 2009 only to be relieved of their duties this summer. And just this year, two high-profile scandals have shaken the credibility of the Miami Beach police department. Over Memorial Day weekend, a fatal police-involved shooting resulted in four bystanders being shot. Two police officers were fired following their actions over Independence Day weekend in which they met up with a party of women at the Clevelander Hotel and ex-officer Derick Kuilan took a woman for a joy ride on his ATV, striking and seriously injuring two people on the beach. Following a blood test for Kuilan and a breathalyzer test for his partner, Rolando Gutierrez, both were suspended and ultimately terminated.
While whispers from City officials suggest that Noriega’s second-in-command, Raymond Martinez, would be the next police chief, there has also been mention of a continued search for his successor as per the Office of the Mayor. The city commissioners appear to be sorting through their opinions on the move.
City Commissioner Deede Weithorn has suggested a national search for the next police chief, believing that the search should begin even for the interim. Adamant in her stance to see Noriega out the door before the end of the year, she has been quoted as saying, “I won’t even entertain the discussion of what the manager wants until I get what I want.”
City Commissioner Jonah Wolfson believes it best that Noriega be out before December 31, with Martinez assuming the interim police chief role until the search is complete and all candidates assessed.
Martinez had a 22-year career with Miami police department, before crossing the MacArthur Causeway in 2001 to join the Miami Beach police department. Rising in rank from patrol officer to assistant chief in Miami, he has held the latter title with Miami Beach. With Miami PD, Martinez worked as a robbery detective, a member of SWAT, and as a general investigations commander. He received a Purple Heart award for being shot twice in the line of duty.
As it has been discussed that Noriega’s early departure would include collecting accrued sick and vacation time, a released statement reads, ““If I decide to use any accrued … time before the end of the year, that request would have to be approved by the city manager. At this time, I have no plans to use any of that time either this month nor in the month of October.”
With Noriega’s early exit on hold, even during Wednesday’s commission meeting, details still need to be sorted out and Jorge Gonzalez’s plan needs to make sense for the immediate and long-term future.