WAYNE JONES: New top copy in city his father once warned him to avoid because Blacks weren’t welcome there. PHOTO COURTESY OF BOBBYPOWELLJR.COM

MIAMI BEACH, Fla. – For the first time in the city’s 108-year history, the City of Miami Beach has an African American police chief.

Wayne Jones, who previously was deputy chief of the department, became the new top cop when the City Commission last week voted to appoint him to replace Chief Richard Clements, who is retiring.

Jones, who has been with the department for more than 30 years, was City Manager Alina Hudak’s top pick for the job. He officially starts his new position on Sept. 1.

“Throughout the interview process, members of the command staff consistently expressed their support and respect for Jones in his role as Deputy Chief and potential future role,” Hudak said in a memo. “I believe strongly in the value of longevity, tradition and commitment. I am confident he will build on MBPD’s legacy and take the department to the next level."

Jones, 54, said he’s prepared to lead the department to new heights and public safety will always remain the city’s top priority.

"I am humbled by this great honor and look forward to leading this remarkable team of men and women who wear the badge with pride," Jones said during the meeting following his appointment. "I pledge that the safety of Miami Beach residents, our officers, and our many visitors from around the world will always be my top priority."

Jones’ appointment comes at a time when Miami Beach has come under scrutiny for allegedly using excessive force against Blacks on South Beach especially during spring break and Memorial Day Urban weekend.

The city passed an ordinance that critics say targets Black visitors, who made video recordings of police using excessive force.

About 4.7 percent of Miami Beach residents are Black, according to the 2020 U.S. Census.

Jones began his career at the department as a patrol officer and rose through the ranks to become a sergeant, lieutenant, captain, major, deputy police chief and now the department’s top brass.

Becoming police chief for Miami Beach may have seemed like a pipe dream for Jones when he was growing up in Miami.

“I am proud of this moment because of my dad," he said at the meeting. "Because as a young boy learning to drive in South Florida, there were two cities I was told I could not go to as a young Black driver. One of them was Miami Beach.

“So when I became a Miami Beach police officer my dad cried. He cried because of the history of the way Black people were treated in this city.”

The Miami Beach Black Affairs Advisory Committee recommended Jones when the city was looking for Clements’ replacement and hoping to ease tension between the department and Blacks visiting the city.

The committee also nominated him for the job because of his track record, including creating a Goodwill Ambassador Program in which volunteers assist the department, and as a major creating the department’s human trafficking unit.

He also developed a strategy to boost the recruitment of women police officers, increasing hires from 12 percent to 18 percent.

"It’s truly a historic day, Wayne Jones, the new City of Miami Beach police chief, the first Black chief in the 108 year history of the city," said committee member Glendon Hall. "Wayne Jones is the most qualified candidate for the job. The BAAC strongly made this recommendation and the City of Miami Beach government did the right thing."

Jones listed his priorities for the department that include managing the complex challenges of high impact weekends in March during spring break, the issue of our homeless population, the importance of neighborhood policing, improved traffic control and officer visibility.

With a number of the department’s command staff set to retire within the next three years, Jones is in charge of promoting officers to fill those positions and recruit new ones.

Jones’ priorities also include augmenting the department’s communications strategy, increasing the representation of women at senior levels of the agency, developing and implementing standard operating procedures and training, reducing claims against the city, leveraging technology to improve efficiency, while finding ways to enhance the recruitment and retention process of officers.

Jones earned his bachelor’s degree in political science and public administration from Florida Memorial University and his master’s in public administration from Florida International University.

He also successfully completed the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Law Enforcement Executive Development Seminar program and the Police Executive Research Forum’s Senior Management Institute for Police.