MIAMI GARDENS — The city of Miami Gardens is one of 10 cities across the country that has been recognized in a magazine that identifies best-practice measures in local government.
American City & County magazine commended the five-year-old city – the youngest on the list – for using creativity and innovation to establish its own police department in only 15 months.
“The winners represent the best that local governments have to offer and exhibit how creative problem solving and collaboration produces impressive results,” the magazine said in its Dec. 1 edition, referring to its 2008 Crown Communities Awards winners.
Miami Gardens, the largest predominantly black city in Florida, shares the magazine honor with cities such as Virginia Beach, Virginia; Bellflower, California and Chandler, Arizona.
When the city was incorporated in May 2003, it contracted with the Miami-Dade Police Department to patrol the area, which includes about 110,000 residents.
Mayor Shirley Gibson said City Manager Danny Crew submitted the nomination that placed the city in the running for the recognition. She said the city’s commitment to excellence makes it deserving of a tribute usually bestowed upon much older cities.
“We’re a great place, and we have great professionals who work for us. It’s great to have our city recognized for that,” Gibson said.
In deciding to pursue its own police department, the city juxtaposed residents’ wish for community-based law enforcement with its reluctance to accept a tax increase to fund it. The city then conducted a series of public town hall meetings to hear directly from the people.
Armed with laptop computers, city officials were able to show residents exactly how much larger their tax bills would be – resulting in their overwhelming support for the 64-percent increase.
That percentage was needed to generate the $4.2 million necessary to fund the transitional period in which the city would be required to essentially pay two police departments. During that three- month period, the city continued to pay for contracted police services from Miami-Dade County as its own police department prepared to accept its new responsibilities.
By using an aggressive pay and incentive package, the city lured experienced police officers from across the nation, gaining the ire of neighboring law enforcement departments that were unable to compete with the hefty salaries and signing bonuses.
The police department’s headquarters is a former 27,000-square-foot industrial building that was converted into a state-of-the-art facility for the 150-person police staff.
The city was able to establish the Miami Gardens Police Department just 15 days beyond its target date of
Dec. 1, 2007, when it assumed responsibility for conducting all law-enforcement duties except the investigation of the most serious crimes.
In October 2008, the city became responsible for investigating all crimes committed within its boundaries.
Since assuming the responsibility for patrolling its own streets, the city’s police department has seen a 17-percent reduction in serious crimes.
To read American City & County magazine and its profile on the city of Miami Gardens, log onto http://americancityandcounty.com/.
Photo: Miami Gardens Mayor Shirley Gibson