MIAMI- A Miami-Dade law enforcement official with 28 years of experience will be formally installed in office at an Investiture Ceremony scheduled at a Liberty City church on Friday.
Mayor Carlos Gimenez tapped J. D. Patterson as director of the Police Department, giving the nod to a veteran, who, by his own account, grew up amid violence on the gritty streets of the county.
“I was brought up in a violent family,” Patterson said in an interview at MDPD’s headquarters in Doral.
“I come from a dysfunctional background – still do, as a matter of fact,” said Patterson, who is the only person in his immediate family to graduate from high school.
That “dysfunction” was so much a part of Patterson’s life growing up in Brownsville that his first research paper was a report he wrote on alcoholism – as a fifth grader.
“I realized that violence was not very productive,” said Patterson, who described himself as someone who “would have been (labeled) ‘at-risk’” as a child growing up in Miami.
But that background, he said, has had its benefits. “It makes my empathy a little stronger,” he said, “especially towards children.”
Because he sees both physical and verbal violence as “destructive to everything,” Patterson said “violence is not acceptable at any time.” “We all get mad,” he said, “but if they don’t want to talk about a problem, they should go to jail” if people resort to violence.
For him, “violence is our greatest problem,” and he is particularly concerned about violent crimes among Miami-Dade County’s youth.
“We have to break the cycle” of violence, said Patterson, who is the second black to head the department, after Bobby Parker.
Alternatives to violent expressions he cited include organized sports programs and professional therapeutic intervention. He also suggested organizing town hall meetings to explore and discuss alternatives to violence.
Still, Patterson’s window for getting things started under his watch is small. He had already submitted his paperwork for retirement when he was named acting director to replace outgoing director James Loftus last fall.
“I’m not going to be here forever,” said Patterson, who is scheduled to retire in three years. “The reality is that the department needs to start developing young future leaders,” especially with so many of his colleagues who started with him during a hiring boom in the early 1980s preparing to retire with him.
Given the time he has to do his job as director, Patterson’s sense of urgency to get involved and make progress appears to dovetail with the community’s desire to hurry to address pressing issues of crime and violence.
“I’ve been an intervener all of my life,” said Patterson.
As a minister as well as a police officer, he said, “It is a unique aspect to what I do.”