Steadman Stahl takes office as the newly elected president of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association on Jan. 29. Miami’s Community Newspapers sat down to talk about the historic election in November and the future of the PBA, Miami-Dade County’s largest and most respected police organization.
CNews: Tell us about the moment you decided to run for the position of PBA president.
SS: Although I’ve been part of the PBA since 1995, my decision to run came about over the last few years as I witnessed a disconnect happening between our members and the PBA hierarchy. So I took a look at my life to see which way I was going to go with the PBA and realized I couldn’t sit back any longer and let this great organization go the direction it was going. My predecessor, John Rivera, was quite a formidable force to deal with. Opposing him in an election was like getting into the ring with Mike Tyson. I mean, I had butterflies in my stomach, but I had to climb into the ring.
CNews: Looking back, how else has the PBA changed for you over the years?
SS: I started out as a municipal rep with the PBA in 1995. I worked my way up to the board of the directors and then onto the executive board. I’ve held the positions of secretary, vice president and ultimately the executive vice president, which is the number two position.
The current leadership that we had just wasn’t changing with the times. Our former president John Rivera is a good man. He did a lot of good things, but he’d been president for 26 years – and I just saw that the time to change was now. The days of “26-year presidents” have ended. There should be term limits to help move people along and keep us better engaged with the people that put us in office. I think this organization will be much better served if its president serves, at most, only two four-year terms. Eight years is enough. No more games.
CNews: It’s been said your forte is your ability to reach out to each and every one of your members. How has social media helped you do this?
SS: For me, social media is huge. It’s our future. A wise man once told me the reason the dinosaurs aren’t here is because they didn’t learn to adapt. As an organization, I saw that the PBA wasn’t adapting, we weren’t changing, and we surely weren’t moving forward. So I started getting involved on my personal Facebook page, making consensus, sharing ideas – and that’s where I first realized the power of social media. And it’s making a world of difference.
CNews: So is that more about using the available tools or coming to terms with the new, younger face of your membership?
SS: It’s both. As the older generation is leaving, I’m finding that you really have to make an effort to stay up with the younger generation, which gets most of their information from social media and the internet. I believe we could have done a lot better job over the past few years, but I assure you, we will do a better job in the future to stay connected, to stay relevant – and to keep pace with changing times.
CNews: Being president of the PBA sounds like a big job?
SS: It’s a very big and challenging job. We represent about 5,500 members spanning from Aventura to Key West. We have lost a few municipalities between here and there, but we’re going to work hard to bring them back and let them know they’re going to have more of a voice at the table with the PBA.
CNews: So I would imagine that campaigning for this election was an enormous endeavor?
SS: Yes, I would say so! It happened on Nov. 20. But from the time I qualified, it was a long and grueling 45-day process. I basically went door to door, going to every single municipality that we represent and attending every single roll call. I’d start at 5 in the morning and go straight to midnight – and get up the next morning and do it all over again.
CNews: During your campaign you said you want to be more focused on the issues facing officers, in other words, to be more supportive…
SS: As you know, one of the PBA’s primary support functions is to provide contract negotiations. The PBA also provides a legal defense fund to members that is fantastic. We offer the best product out there. But we offer so many other important forms of support, like the “Love Fund” that assists officers and their families in times of extreme need.
We also need to be more supportive of our members with regard to addiction, suicide, PTSD, and depression. And then there’s also the challenges related to a hostile work environment and dealing with an angry and aggressive public. Needless to say, working in law enforcement can be extremely stressful, whether you’re an officer on the street, correctional officer in the jails, or a dispatcher handling emergency calls. So the PBA needs to do play a larger role in fostering an environment that is supportive of law enforcement, because at the end of the day, that benefits everyone.
CNews: So you won the election in a big way?
SS: I did win with a very comfortable margin of 63 percent of the vote, which is a very loud and clear mandate from our members. Since the election results were made public, I’ve noticed an immediate improvement in morale throughout the ranks.
CNews: The moment you heard you won, what was your first thought?
SS: It was an unbelievable moment. I was frozen for a minute and overwhelmed by the staggering support shown me. A lot of people stuck their neck out for me. A lot of people expect change – and now it has to happen. One thing is for sure, we’re going to make the place better than I found it.
The Dade County Police Benevolent Association seeks to promote professionalism among more than 5,500 law enforcement officers county-wide, and provides union-type services such as collective bargaining, labor relations assistance, and legal representation to its members. The PBA is located at 10680 PBA Memorial Blvd., Doral, FL 33172. For information, call 305-593-0044 or visit the PBA website.