Sunday, July 1, 2007

2 Cities Avoid State-Mandated Tax Cuts (Miami Herald

Posted from the Miami Herald
Saturday, June 23, 2007

2 cities avoid state-mandated tax cuts

Opa-Locka and Miami Gardens' governments are rejoicing after being saved from state-mandated tax cuts.

The state's big tax reform package, a sweeping plan to stiffen spending in local governments, will have a relatively small impact in Opa-Locka and Miami Gardens. The two were shielded from slashing their budgets after qualifying under two special exemptions.

Miami Gardens, the third-largest city in Miami-Dade, was exempted entirely from the mandated property tax cuts, calculated through a complicated formula based on five years of financial performance. The Legislature concluded that the four-year-old city was too young to face big cuts.

''I'm ecstatic at the decision,'' said Mayor Shirley Gibson, who led the city's council trip to Tallahassee in April to ask for special consideration. ``We have started a lot of great programs and didn't want to have to cut back on them.''

Meanwhile, Opa-Locka was told to cut its taxes three percent, three times less than most municipalities and the smallest cut in the Miami-Dade County.

The Legislature concluded the city was not financially stable enough to endure a cut, particularly since the city is recovering from a recent financial emergency.

''The state's consideration is really much appreciated,'' said Vice Mayor Dorothy ''Dottie'' Johnson. ``We've lost so many years of progress in this city in the past, and it's a blessing that we're not forced to lose any more.''

Property tax reform was the major subject of this year's legislative session, with representatives from both parties scrambling to create tax solutions after Gov. Charlie Crist declared that Floridians needed smaller financial burdens.

As the Legislature debated, city governments shivered while awaiting a decision.

Kelley asked the city commission to consider holding off major projects until a decision was made. Miami Gardens City Manager Danny Crew warned his boss that the reform was the ``most serious thing he's seen in his 35 years.'' They warned of park closings, decreased sanitation services and staff reductions.

Betty Webb, a retired nurse in Miami Gardens, said she understood those concerns but still would have liked some form of property tax cut.

''I paid $8,000 in homeowners insurance and even more in property taxes,'' said Webb, who owns a five-bedroom home. ``I could use some relief. We all could.''

In this sense, Webb is envious of residents in Opa-Locka, who will see their property taxes return to 2006 levels. Residents there are subject to the highest millage rate, which last year was $9.80 for every $1,000 of taxable property.

The entire debate reminded Kelley that the city needs to watch its wallet and search for as many grant and relief opportunities for residents as possible.

''This cut is not going to be as devastating,'' Kelley said. ``But it's still a cut.''
And more cuts might be coming after the January election.

If 60 percent of voters approve it, homeowners will get to choose one of two options: keep their current tax scheme, which stops taxes from rising more than three percent each year under the Save Our Homes act. Or pay $50,000 worth of property taxes for the first $200,000 of their home value, and 15 percent of the next $300,000 worth.

Said Crew: ``It's not over yet.''

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Application deadline May 31st, 2007

It has been said that "Time and tide wait for no man."

For those of you who are calling and saying “I am really interested in being a part of your department.” It’s nice to hear this, but I suggest you get on the ball and submit your completed application, along with the required documents as soon as possible.

If you have not submitted your application for employment for the Certified Police Officer Position (the only sworn position we are currently recruiting for) you may do so up to May 31st, 2007. After this date, your application will not be accepted.

We are moving right along with the formulation of our police department and are pleased with the response to our recruitment drive. Rain or shine, we will assume policing responsibility on Saturday, December 1st, 2007.

I applaud the individuals who have acted quickly to compete for positions within our department.

Wishing you well in the process,

Major Alfred Lewers Jr.
Support Services Bureau Commander

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Official word... What’s happening with the MGPD

I haven't had a chance to post here for a while as I and the other staff members of the Miami Gardens Police Department have been busy putting together our police department.

All of our unmarked vehicles have been received, and outfitted with covert lights and sirens. Our marked cars have started arriving and are being outfitted with lights, sirens, computer mounts, and other equipment. We have identified OSSI as our RMS, CAD, and Report Writing software. We have located a building to be remodeled for our headquarters. We have ordered our firearms (Glock 40 cal) and other exciting accomplishments. This a brief list of accomplishments necessary to make the department a go by December 1st, 2007.

It seems like quite a few people are interested in what’s going on with our department, as the MGPD post appears to have the highest number of views and posts on the web site.

As far as the sergeants’ selection process goes, we have extended conditional job offers and expect to identify 11 additional sergeants to hire within the next two weeks. We are no longer accepting applications for the Sergeants’ position though some people have submitted applications and will be granted interviews.

On the subject of police officer interviews we have contacted candidates and have given them a two week deadline to confirm their participation. We will continue to gradually contact applicants to prevent an onslaught of calls into H.R. We are on schedule with the posted timeline on our web site as well as the information that was mailed to candidates who previously submitted applications.

It should be noted that not every applicant will receive an interview. Candidates who have a history of discipline or termination from their agencies, or have worked for several police agencies over a few years or have resigned from their department while under investigation; these individuals should not expect to be given an interview.

We are a highly desirable agency to work for and will always select only the best employees to be a part of our department.

I see quite a bit of information on this post that speaks about the quality of life in the City of Miami Gardens, as well as how dangerous it is. It sounds like some people are scared to work in a City which poses a policing challenge.

I can say that the quality of life in the City of Miami Gardens is on the rise everyday, this includes beautification of our city entryways and swales, planned updates to our parks and community centers, community redevelopment, and other accomplishments. We are a new city having been incorporated in 2003, and are proud of our progress. Our Police Department will be another part of that growth and improvement process.

I am of the frame of mind that law enforcement officers should welcome the opportunity to bring calm from chaos, though we are not a chaotic metropolis. If you want to go someplace where the work has been done, there are some great bedroom communities all over the country that would welcome you as an applicant. As for the Miami Gardens Police Department, we want officers who are committed to problem solving policing and good old fashioned police work.

To help give interested candidates an accurate picture of the crime and arrest trends in our city, please visit the updated “About Miami Gardens Section” of our web site.

We have recently updated the MGPD web site with crime and arrest statistics. Please access this link for more information.

Additionally I have posted some helpful information in the “Out of Town Applicants” section of our web site for people who wish to find additional information on South Florida. . You may use this link to find more information on cost of living, the visitors and conventions bureaus, Sun-Sentinel and Miami Herald web sites, airport, hotel, and rental car information

Candidates will be asked to travel to Miami Gardens for their initial interview, which will be used to establish a list of eligibility. If a candidate is given a conditional offer they will be asked to return a second time for their Polygraph, Psychological, Medical Exam and initial Background Investigation. EVERYONE will go through this process.

I agree with frostbiteCRA’s post and encourage you to do your homework before you make the move to South Florida. It is expensive to live here and there are unique challenges to live in South Florida like taxes, housing cost (though they’re on the decline), and insurance cost.

Five to seven days would be ample time to explore the area, and the cost associated with seeking employment is customarily tax deductible, even if you are not successful in the hiring process. Please consult your tax professional, or the IRS for specific information on this deduction.

The last thing the MGPD wants to do is hire an individual who commits to our agency, moves their family here and later finds out that they can’t afford to live here, or does not like the area. That would be a disruptive move for your family, and would be a costly expenditure for the Miami Gardens Police Department.

Regardless of the challenges to live here, my wife and I love living here, and are very comfortable raising our family here. There are great schools and universities in South Florida, exciting amenities, night life, and attractions for singles and families, as well as great weather and beautiful comminutes throughout South Florida to live in.

We are not trying to make anyone think the City of Miami Gardens is like Mayberry, because it isn’t. If that’s what you are looking for, you got the wrong place, but if you want to do police work, and there’ll be lots of it required in our City, than this is the City for you.

If you want to work for a City that believes its officers should have the best equipment, benefits and salary package, which allows them to care for their families working 40 hours per week, in comparison to other agencies where officers have to work 40 + 20 more off duty officers, than this is the place for you.

If you want to be a part of brand new department with unique challenges and rewards, this is the place for you.

If you want the support of your elected officials, professional City management, and police management, then this is the place for you.

If you understand the importance of customer service as a police officer; and this means writing tickets and locking offenders up, then this is the place for you.

If you have embraced the community service philosophy and it has been woven into your policing style, then this is the place for you.

If you are lazy and hope to come to our City for the money or to coast, this isn’t the place for you.

If you are a rude, unprofessional, ill tempered or abusive officer, then this isn’t the place for you.

If you have a problem with diversity, and there’s lots of it in our City and the surrounding communities, then this isn’t the place for you.

If you don’t understand that you are a public servant first, as a police officer, than this isn’t the place for you.

The temperature is often hot and hotter in South Florida and there is NO snow and the trees don’t lose their leaves. If you enjoy a change of seasons, this isn’t the place for you.

Again I appreciate everyone’s interest in our department and commend the individuals who have acted quickly to be a part of our team of professionals.

Be safe, and wish you well in the process,

Major Alfred Lewers Jr.
Support Services Bureau Commander

Monday, March 5, 2007

More negatives than an upside down battery.

By Major Alfred Lewers Jr.

To the forum posters.

First off, don’t let the demographics of the City of Miami Gardens convince you that it can not support, or does not deserve its own police department of positive distinction. This is in no way an attempt to cast disparaging words or innuendo against the fine men and women of the Miami Dade Police Department who currently commit themselves to the City of Miami Gardens.
You, along with every law enforcement officer in the State, should be proud to see a municipality offer a fair and equitable salary, along with an outstanding benefits and salary package. I suggest you take it to your collective bargaining unit and ask them to use it as a blueprint for future benefits for you and your friends.
As far as the number of officers hired by the MGPD in comparison to Miami Dade Police Department:
You are right; the initial complement of officers will be just shy of what MDPD has assigned to Miami Gardens. This will change, with the addition of 30 officers within 3 years. Your question about specialized services:Currently the City of Miami Gardens pays about $7 million to Miami-Dade County for administrative fees and specialized units. We just happen to be the only city in Miami-Dade County who has to pay this high amount. This is in addition to approximately $19 million for general police services. When you do the math, you’ll see that the City of Miami Gardens already pays approximately $26 million for police services. This is more than enough to pay for its own police department.
Your statement about being able to maintain the great salaries shows that you are able to identify some good in what is happening in our city:
The City of Miami Gardens will be able to maintain its officer’s salaries just like your current agency maintains your great salary, through municipal taxes, which are paid into the general fund, along with other revenue generating means. By the way Dolphin stadium is in the City of Miami Gardens and they pay taxes, along with Calder Race Track, the businesses along 826, 441, property owners within the corporate limits of our city.You do not have to have high taxes to sustain a city, as I live in the City of Coconut Creek and my City’s millage rate is currently slightly higher than the City of Miami Gardens. Very few cities in South Florida are experiencing financial difficulties as a result of consistent growth in property values. The City of Miami Gardens is no different.
On the vehicles:
The average lifespan for personally assigned cars is 5 to 6 years, not the 2 to 4 that you quoted. And the maintenance is a regular budgeted function of government, which we will sustain.
I could go on and on responding to your negative opinion and conjecture, but I really don’t have to, as you are probably not an applicant and judging by your attitude, you wouldn’t be happy in our City.
The bottom line is that the City of Miami Gardens is now in control of its destiny, and you, like others, can not get past your personal bias and unconstructive statements.
We do not think, for a second, that this venture will be easy. But we are willing to take on the challenge associated with our mission of creating a new Miami Gardens Police Department and will be successful.
Consider adjusting your attitude and give us a chance to succeed or fail on our own without your preconceived notions of what we will or will not become.
Other agencies have their legacies and reputation; please allow us to create our own.
Whether you do or don’t change your mind, I wish you well, and hope that if someone doubts your ability to accomplish a task you will be given the opportunity and benefit of the doubt. Something you have not been willing to extend to the City of Miami Gardens Police Department.

Thank you,

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Rumor Control

By Alfred Lewers Jr.

I have had the pleasure of being in law enforcement for over twenty years and it never ceases to amaze me how police officers tend to spread rumors worse than most school girls. I hesitate to use such an analogy, as I am the father of two school aged girls who don’t further nearly as many rumors as I have heard passed along by officers.

Let me use this blog entry to respond to some of the rumors that I have read in some police forums or have been confronted with in emails, and phone calls.

The Miami Gardens Police Department’s formulation is being funded by a four year federal grant and once the grant is over, financial problems are sure to follow. This is not accurate.

There is no federal, state, local or non-profit grant being used to make possible the Miami Gardens Police Department. All of our 150 positions are being funded by the City of Miami Gardens’ general fund. Though we, like many law enforcement agencies, do intend to take advantage of as many grants as possible to enhance our crime fighting and service capabilities.

There is no need to apply for positions at the Miami Gardens Police Department, as they are all filled or guaranteed to others. This is not accurate.

Currently there are 23 Sergeants and 123 Officers positions that have yet to be filled at the Miami Gardens Police Department. Qualified candidates interested in the Sergeants positions should submit your applications by March, 2007, as the first round of oral interviews are scheduled for the month of March. We intend to hire 12 of our 23 sergeants by June 4th, 2007, with the others being fazed in by October 1, 2007.

Police Officers should submit their applications as soon as possible, as the initial shift bid and days off preference will be granted based on the submission date of your applications. So do not procrastinate, submit your application NOW!!! Oral interviews for officers start in June, though dates for interviews are being conveyed to applicants weeks in advance.

The Detectives’ assignments will be filled by qualified officers who are hired into our department. There are no guaranteed assignments promised to any candidates, and all qualified candidates are able to participate in a fair and equitable testing and hiring process.

The Miami Gardens Police Department is only hiring state of Florida certified officers at first. This is not accurate.

Our process is open to ALL out of state officers whose training and experience meet the standards of the Florida Department of Law enforcement. Out of state officers must have at least one (1) year of full time paid police experience (police academy, training and FTO time does not count). Out of state officers who meet these standards may apply for the certified police officer position.

The one (1) year experience requirement does not apply to Florida Certified officers.

Out of state candidates will have to take the 80 hour comparative compliance course and the State Exam before they can start working. This is not accurate.

In order to become a certified officer in Florida, you will need to demonstrate proficiency in the high liability areas and pass the state certification exam discipline within 1 year of employment and submission of the Equivalency of Training Form (CJSTC-76).

The City of Miami Gardens has one of the highest tax rates in south Florida, and they are not a financially secure city. This is not accurate.

The City of Miami Gardens currently pays over $30 million for its current level of police services from Miami-Dade County and is more than able to fund and operate its own police force. The City of Miami Gardens’ tax rate is NOT one of the highest in Miami-Dade County as stated, though it has recently been raised to 5.14 from 3.63. To give you an accurate comparison of other cities in Miami-Dade County, the City of Miami's millage (tax) rate is 8.37, Opa Locka's is 9.80, Homestead's is 6.25, Miami Shores is 8.25 and Avenutura's is 2.27. Don't take my word for it; if you would like more information on the tax rates of other Miami Dade County Cities access this link

The Miami Gardens Police Department’s benefits and salary are too good to be true and they won’t last. FALSE

We understand that up to 80% of the police departments in this country have positions that they can not fill, and one of the reasons for this shortage of qualified candidates is the sometimes abysmal salaries and benefits that are offered to professional law enforcement officers. We want to make sure that this is not the case in the City of Miami Gardens. We have created the best salary, benefits, and incentives packages in the State of Florida to quickly attract and retain the best most dedicated and professional officers to provide professional police services in our City.

These were just some of the rumors that I have had to contend with, though I hope to have fewer of them to respond to in the future. I ask that each person who reads this blog acts as an agent of truth the next time he or she hears a rumor. Please encourage the false rumor mongors to take the time research the information that they put out to prevent nonsense from being expressed as the truth.

If you have questions that you want answered by someone who has knowledge about the Miami Gardens Police Department, don't miss the opportunity to atend one of our upcoming information sessions. To complete an online registration, please access this link . Look for future information dates in Orlando, West Palm Beach, Detroit and other cities.

If you are unable to locate the answer to your questions on our web site or Blog, please don’t hesitate to complete an online web inquiry form. We will respond to your request for information in a timely manner.
Thanks, and be safe

Monday, January 22, 2007

New Police Chief set to combat crime

Posted on Sun, Jan. 21, 2007

New police chief set to combat crime
Matthew Boyd must define the role of police chief for his community and himself.

Before he vowed to fight crime in Miami Gardens, soon-to-be police Chief Matthew Boyd slouched in front of a TV camera. The news channel's photographer was about a head shorter than the 6-foot, 4-inch Boyd, who spent much of the evening answering questions. Questions about crime, money and just, you know how everything feels.

The camera's lights flashed off. Boyd cut his eyes to Renee Farmer, the assistant city manager and his new supervisor.

''You're doing great!'' she said, sticking her thumbs up.
He smiled back. Then he slouched again. Another TV reporter had questions. About crime, money and, you know, just how it all feels.

This is the life of a new police chief. A barrage of questions. A stream of support. Fighting a little nervousness.

Last Tuesday, Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez gave Boyd a vote of confidence and swore him in at Florida Memorial University. Boyd, in his first official act, swore in five other men of his command staff.

It's a new title for Boyd, but not that new of a job. As a major with the county police department, he already supervised the district covering this 3 ½ year-old city. He was responsible for 144 sworn officers and about 20 civilian employees.

When the city takes over policing duties from the county this December, Boyd's staff will be only a tad bigger -- 150 sworn officers and about 25 civilian employees.

What changes, Boyd said, is that new, heavy, imaginary weight a leader has on his shoulders. No longer with the county's backing, he is more responsible for results in an area becoming increasingly violent.

He also has to prove his worth to residents, who swallowed a 41 percent property tax increase to cover his big salary and that of his incoming staff.

''Now, I have to be more mindful about the decisions that I make,'' Boyd said. ``And that's about it.''

When he speaks about the future, Boyd's voice is cautious and precise. It peps when he channels his past.

''I was an actual street cop who was always on the ground,'' Boyd said. ``And even now I still go out on the road. You don't run into this type of action that often when you're in management, but I'll respond to the calls and assist the officers in taking subjects down.''

Still Boyd said he was set to slow down and retire in two years. He'd been with Miami-Dade police since 1982. The Discovery Channel even filmed him tracking down prostitutes for one of their television shows.

He was transferred in 2005 to be the major of the county's Miami Gardens Police District, where one of his mentors, Aaron Campbell, was a councilman.

''I was quite pleased when I heard he was transferred,'' said Campbell, who appreciates Boyd's results-oriented approach. ``He made a significant difference in the way policing was done in the city.''

Boyd was on track to hang up his police uniform when City Manager Danny Crew invited him to be their first police chief.

Crew told Boyd he was assembling an incentives package that would turn heads across the nation. Boyd would get the opportunity to hire top-quality police officers and build a department from the ground up.

It was then Boyd decided to end his career at the county police. Last week, he donned a a Miami Gardens uniform instead.

At the ceremony, Miami-Dade State Attorney Katherine Fernández Rundle praised the chief's work ethic. But she looked at his command staff and noticed something disturbing.

''I know the next step is you're going to have lots of women to join you on the stage, right?'' Fernandez Rundle said. The crowd applauded.

In his speech, Boyd acknowledged his lone female hire, Marilyn Gonzalez, who will handle the department's training. Her position made her a part of the non-sworn staff.
Boyd later said the comments about the lack of women on the command staff ``caught him off guard.''

''But the thing is there have not been a great deal of females applying for the positions,'' Boyd said. ``One thing with Miami Gardens, and I'd make this statement to everybody, is as long as you're qualified, we have no problems bringing you on board.''

The city's incentives package for new police officers, designed by its city manager, offers high salaries as well as $12,000 signing bonus. The offer worries nearby departments, who wonder if they can compete.

For example, Boyd said he was to make about $110,000 as a county major. He'll be making almost $140,000 as the chief. That's why the reporters ask him about money.

''Trust me, that package looks good,'' Boyd said, ``but I can tell you right now my decision to come to Miami Gardens was not ultimately [about] the money. It was the opportunity to make my mark here.''

That won't be easy. The city's homicide rate rose by 50 percent this year, which prompted questions about priorities for crime.

''Right now, we don't have one crime that we're going to favor over the other,'' Boyd said before he was sworn in. ``We're going after all of it.''

As he made those comments, three of his good friends sneaked up behind them. When he saw them, he gave them a big hug. It answered ''the just how it feels'' question.

''Man, I was feeling a little tense before you came,'' Boyd told the group, ``but now, I feel like I'm ready for this.''
To read this story online via the Miami Herald web site, you may access this link

Sunday, January 14, 2007

First police staff will be sworn in

Posted on Sun, Jan. 14, 2007
Obtained from the Miami Herald website

Miami Gardens is preparing to swear in the command staff for its first police department at a ceremony scheduled for Tuesday at Florida Memorial College.


The city of Miami Gardens will swear in the command staff for its first police department on Tuesday in a ceremony that is garnering interest from law enforcement officials across South Florida.

They are taking notice because the city is charting some success in filling 150 vacancies at a time when established police departments nationwide are struggling to fill empty spots.

Many credit the city's lavish incentives package, which police unions say they love and other municipalities say makes them worried.

The police department won't take over until December. Logistics with the county still need to be worked out. But pinning the badge on Chief Matthew Boyd and his four command staff is a major symbol, said Mayor Shirley Gibson, a former police officer herself.

She said the department is critical to Miami Gardens' evolution as an independent municipality. It is also a key factor in curbing a spike in area violence.
''This is the No. 1 priority for the New Year,'' Gibson said in an interview.

In October, the city unveiled its incentive package. The starting salaries -- at least $45,100 for an officer with no experience -- will most likely place the city in the top 10 percent of highest-paid police departments in Florida. There also is a chance at a free college education and a $12,000 signing bonus.

Danny Crew, the city manager, said drafting the incentives package was simple: ''I looked at what other places were offering,'' said Crew, who drafted the package. ``And then I topped it.'' It's a strategy that new cities coast to coast employ. And, so far, Crew said, it's been successful.

The city has received 105 applications for seven captain positions, according to Renee Farmer, assistant city manager.
In the two weeks, the city received more than 80 completed applications for officers or sergeants. City Hall has more than 1,000 people showing interest in the jobs.

''I've been surprised at the caliber of applicants and the willingness to want to join us building a police department,'' Farmer said in an interview. ``We're hearing that they want to help put a mark on something new and it's a more important factor than the money.''

Farmer said the city is on track to getting the best and the brightest. Residents at City Council meetings have raised concerns about making sure the staff is diverse in a city where four of five residents are black.

Demographic information for applicants has not yet been compiled, Farmer said. But four of the five sworn staff and two additional hires are black or Hispanic. One is a woman.

''So far, a good number of the captain applicants are women,'' Farmer said. ``And we're working hard to show that we want female officers here. In our advertisements, the officer is a woman.''
Attracting applicants has been the easier part, Farmer said. A host of administrative tasks between Miami Gardens and Miami-Dade County still needs to be done. The city was required to enter into a three-year service contract with the county force as part of the agreement that allowed it to incorporate.

Ideally, new officers could go on ride-alongs with the old guard. Files needed to be transferred. And the city is still unsure whether it will have to pay for the Carol City District building at Northwest 188th Street and 27th Avenue. It is taking out an $8.5 million loan, just in case.

''The hardest part has been nailing points down with Miami-Dade County,'' Farmer said. ``We've seen a willingness from them to work with us. It's just that our timetable is very aggressive -- and we'd like to see their rate be as aggressive as ours.''

Miami Gardens has spent more than $300,000 on advertising. Not all the response has been positive. On a national discussion forum on the website, posters cite the city as a ``high-crime area.'' Crime statistics show 21 people were killed there in 2006 -- a 50-percent increase from the year before. The number of sexual batteries jumped 31 percent. Theft and commercial burglaries, though, dropped by a fifth.

Still, the city's aggressive recruitment push has sparked strong interest among those interested in law enforcement.

''The Miami Gardens situation is looming over us,'' said Adam Burden, assistant chief, administration division, for Miami Police. ``We've heard different people say they are going to apply.''

When Broward County Police Benevolent Association President Dick Brickman heard about the Miami Gardens hiring package in October, he said he hoped other municipalities would soon follow. ''I think it's going to have a domino affect,'' Brickman said.

Police Chief-designate Matt Boyd called any worry that Miami Gardens' recruitment would drain nearby police departments ``ludicrous.''

''We're not taking everybody. But we're going to be taking some of the best talent that we have out there,'' Boyd said. ``It's like in football. It's a free-agent market here, and we're taking the best talent.''