Lauretta Hill appears to be tailor-made for the image tarnished Miami Beach police department. The former assistant chief with the Arlington police department made history when she was sworn in as Miami Beach’s first African American deputy chief in August, two months after Chief Daniel Oates took the helm.
Hill, 44, said that bringing both a “woman’s…and African-American’s perspective,” are factors that will be beneficial in her new position. After being contacted by Oates, Hill said that her research of the department’s highly publicized racial troubles with the predominantly black Memorial Day revelers wet her appetite for joining the force.
“I could see that they had a community relations issue when it came to the actions of the officers and how they were portrayed in the media, right, wrong or indifferent,” she said. “I think I can really help that. I think that I can make a difference.”
Although she has the support of the chief, city manager, mayor and commission, the Fraternal Order of Police voiced displeasure with Hill’s hiring, chiding Oates for going outside of the department to find his second-in-command.
Hill said that her fresh ideas, different voice and that she is somebody “that didn’t grow up in South Florida law enforcement” allows her to bring a different perspective.
“I understood what they were saying, but…sometimes in order to see the real change and progressiveness that you want to see, you have to go outside,” she explained.
Hill served 20 years in the police department in Arlington, Texas, where she rose through the ranks to assistant chief and coordinated several major events, including Super Bowl XLV, the 2011 World Series and the 2010 NBA All-Star Game.
Oates said that her experience with overseeing large events will be beneficial in Miami Beach, which has roughly 280 special events each year. He said “I’ve known about her for a while” because Hill has a “national reputation as an up and coming talent.”
That she comes from a very progressive police agency with a strong community policing philosophy and a reputation for producing quality leaders, he added, makes her ideal for an agency that was already improving its operations before their arrival. Oates said that he learned that Hill was one of the finalists for his job from the City Manager Jimmy Morales, who encouraged him to convince Hill to become deputy chief.
Flattered that “somebody outside of Texas law enforcement knew who I was,” Hill said that as it relates to repairing the police department’s image, getting out of the office and “just talking to people,” goes a long way, Hill said. “My skill could be beneficial with helping [the police department] to get past some of the huge black eyes that they have when it relates with different segments of the community,” said Hill, whose salary will be $176,000.
“Proactive communication with all constituents is important and effective, Hill said.”
“If it’s related to Memorial Day weekend, it’s predominantly African American, we need to talk to people in the community. How do they perceive the police? What is our history in interacting with that community,” she shared. “If it’s a Jewish related event, make sure that we have…people within that community that we talk to on a regular basis.”
If what the community requests is within reason and safe, Hill said, “you make the accommodations and you do it. At the end of the day, we’re serving them, so we need to figure out how to serve our population the best way possible,” she explained.
As she, her husband of 16 years and their two young sons settle into their new environment, Hill said that they are already enjoying the area’s diversity. .
“That is such a plus. You got so many different ethnicities, religions, cultures. You can go around the world just by walking down the street,” said Hill, who decided to live in Miami Beach, “to get integrated in the culture of the beach so I would know what I’m policing.”
As deputy chief, Hill’s responsibilities include oversight of the department’s operations. As a woman, she encourages other females in law enforcement to embrace both sides of the mentoring relationship.
“Seek out a mentor, but always have somebody that is a level below you that you can pull up,” she advised.
She also encourages women to embrace what makes them unique and to speak up.
“Don’t be hampered by what the boys do, do what you do. Women add value, tremendous value to law enforcement. You can’t just be the silent voice in the room, you’ve got to make some noise in the room,” Hill said.
Michelle Hollinger can be reached at email@example.com