Monday, December 21, 2015

Carlos Noriega As The Next North Bay Village Police Chief

The Village Manager has made his recommendation for Police Chief, Carlos Noriega, the  former police chief for Miami Beach.

For those who don't know the history, the North Bay Village Police Department are recovering from one of the worst police chiefs the village has had, Robert Daniels.  During his tenure, Daniels deepened rifts in the police department, alienated the cops, systematically disengaged the cops from community involvement including eliminating the PAL, refused to engage with the criminal and security issues at the condos, and never met with the community.  An all around poor chief who the village finally bit the bullet on and fired him last year, costing us nearly $200,000 in severance due to his most likely illegal contract.

Now that this sad chapter is closed, residents have noted that the cops are talking to the public again and that there is better enforcement of our traffic laws on the Causeway.  Internally, the personnel problems are not gone away but have calmed down noticeably without the ongoing drama of constant arbitrary disciplinary actions and we're not getting new lawsuits.

The interim chief Brian Collins is in large part responsible for this and he has diligently and intelligently guided the police department through the transition.  Collins shows up prepared at every commission meeting with facts, figures and answers.  Collins does not promise things he can't do and does the things he promises.  

If you're wondering why Brian Collins is not the natural choice for police chief, me too.  I've asked him and his answer is pretty straightforward.  He doesn't want to.  He did not apply and he's not going to.  Which is a shame for us.

In the meantime, after a search with the committee headed by the village manager and two long serving police officials from other cities, the recommendation came down for Carlos Noriega.

In Miami Beach, Noriega was known as a strong administrator who made sure the police were treated correctly.  His work was cut out for him there as the Miami Beach PD had historically operated like a small town police force and the Beach had changed so much that it needed professionalization and to get the cops out of the politics.  People who worked for him and with him have nothing but the best things to say about his skills as an organizational leader - bright, realistic, flexible and hard as nails when faced with unprofessional behaviors.

So it should be good, right?  But there's another side to being a police chief and that's serving the community, all of it.  Noriega's public record in this area is worrying.

Noriega left at the end of 2011 after some very bad years for the Miami Beach Police Department.

These issues included:
  • Two policemen, later fired, who beat up a tourist near Flamingo Park.  The cops were in plainclothes, making an arrest in the park of someone who was identifiably gay.  The suspect was handcuffed and the two men were beating him.  The tourist, not knowing they were cops, called 911 and in turn the two cops arrested the tourist and reportedly beat him.  

  • During Urban Beach Weekend, the police were criticized for aggressive and hostile behavior with the implication being that it was racially motivated.  It culminated in a civilian killed by a cop.  Now the guy killed was behaving dangerously but the strangest thing about the case is it was 3 full days before the police found the gun he allegedly had, in the dead guy's car.  

  • Three beachgoers were run over by an officer who was joyriding an ATV with a woman he just met while on duty.  The subsequent internal affairs investigation found 5 other officers had falsified time cards and other records during the night in question.  
The Miami New Times is one of my least favorite news sources but you can see these and other incidents at this link:  Miami New Time Articles on Noriega

Reading through the incidents, what stands out was the amount of time and apparent resistance to engaging the community when these incidents happened.  

The LGBT community was forming an important part of the Miami Beach but had long complained about overly aggressive police tactics targeting the community and when the incident at Flamingo Park came down, it was a lawsuit and six months before Noriega met with the community to discuss these issues.   

Urban Beach Weekend markets directly to African American tourists, a group long made to feel unwelcome on the beach and regardless of the lawlessness that might be associated with any gathering of hip hop and parties, there was little attempt to engage the community, including the organizers, and the aftermath seemed like closing the gates.  

North Bay Village is not Miami Beach.  I doubt that there would be much reason to be concerned about large scale segments of the community being targeted by our police.  They know us too well.  

But we have suffered much from the antipathy former Chief Daniels showed towards the community at large and with a new police chief, these questions have to be addressed.   The new chief needs to discuss his plans to re-engage the community and how he will deal with community needs.  I would love to hear him talk about:
  • The PAL
  • Create a condo investigative unit.
  • Promote outreach to the elderly and disabled. 
  • Really support the Crime Watch initiative.  
  • Develop relationships with the residents on the street and with the businesses.
  • Work with the community on the troublesome parking and short term rental problems  
If the search committee, or even the administration overall, had involved the community in talking about what we want from our police, these questions would have been raised, but that's not how this village manager works. There should have been workshops on the subject, and certainly there are talented residents who could have could have been part of the group.  

The commission will be discussing the proposed hire at the January 12 meeting and the community needs to turn out.  These questions have to be asked.

Kevin Vericker
December 21, 2015


  1. Good luck. You're going to need it with this loser.

  2. I wonder if the search committee asked him about this lapse in judgment?

    He's also a slow learner.


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