What is it worth to you and your family not to have your house broken into? Not to experience an assault? You have told me very clearly, as your Mayor, that you cannot put a price on your safety or the safety of your house and family. I have heard you. Your safety is the first priority of South Miami’s City government.
Five years ago, South Miami had a growing safety problem. Crime in the City was not going down, even as it declined all around us. The South Miami Police were solving almost none of the crimes committed in the City, a completely unacceptable “clearance rate” of 5.6%. The Ethics Commission had determined the Police Department was doing business with a company owned by the Chief’s wife, in violation of City and County ethics codes. Officer morale had reached a low point and the City was overdue for more effective police leadership.
In January 2013, I cast a vote of no confidence in the Police Chief, joined by Commissioners Harris and Welsh. The City Manager offered to pay out the Police Chief’s contract, and allow him to resign with dignity, but the Chief refused. Eventually, the Chief was terminated and he sued the City.
Rene Landa was appointed Police Chief in late 2013, immediately improving police morale and productivity. With the support of City Manager Steven Alexander, Chief Landa instituted a Community Policing Program and a suite of new training programs. Over the first three years of Chief Landa’s tenure, the City experienced 756 fewer crimes than in the previous three years under the former Police Chief. Crime in South Miami has dropped by a remarkable 40% to the lowest on record.
This week we learned that the City’s appeal of the suit was denied. The circuit court stated: “nothing in the contract impaired the City’s ability to fire [Chief] Castro at any time; it simply required the City to pay him if they terminated his employment without good cause.” Even if the court awards the maximum attorney’s fees allowable, and we pay out $1.27 million, the City will still be financially ahead by $1.40 million in our policing costs for having replaced the Chief. How is that possible?
Chief Landa cleared away the administrative bloat at the top of the Police Department that had been instituted by the prior Chief. Savings from Chief Landa’s reorganization have amounted to $2.67 million in today’s dollars, which we would not have had under the previous Chief’s organizational model.
Sure, we’d have preferred to win the court case, but a 40% reduction in crime and a net savings of $1.4 million constitute a major victory for the Commission, the City Administration, and the citizens of South Miami.
p.s. with the holidays near, our police ask that you please lock your car doors and don’t leave gifts or other valuables in the car.
Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) Uniform Crime Reports (UCRs). http://www.fdle.state.fl.us/FSAC/UCR-Reports.aspx
City of South Miami Comprehensive Annual Financial Reports (CAFRs), externally audited to assure accuracy. http://www.southmiamifl.gov/140/Annual-Reports
Bureau of Labor Statistics Inflation Calculator.https://www.bls.gov/data/inflation_calculator.htm