Former Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo will be leaving for Miami in May to lead the city’s 1,400-strong police force.
The surprise pick announced recently was born out of a secret recruitment by the Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, according to the Miami Herald. Suarez made the analogy between recruiting Acevedo and getting “Tom Brady” or “Michael Jordan.”
According to the publication, very few were aware of the nod, which was unexpected as Acevedo did not participate in the lengthy interview process conducted by City Manager Art Noriega. The search for a new chief followed the retirement of Chief Jorge Colina.
Apparently, there was speculation of a “tug-of-war” between city leaders over veteran Miami police law enforcement staffers. Eventually, Mayor Suarez met with Acevedo and began to recruit him. Noriega said, “It helps to have a mayor that has the profile that he does. We just landed a change agent for the city in terms of just policing and law enforcement.”
Acevedo, who has recently become a socially progressive figure, addressed the media outside Miami City Hall, speaking of his successful 5-year stint as the Houston Police Chief, and his particular knack for firing rogue cops, stressing that he “will not tolerate mediocrity.”
Acevedo will be leaving the country’s fourth largest police department in Houston, with more than 6,000 personnel and a budget over a billion dollars, which is equal to Miami’s entire municipal budget.
Acevedo, 56, entered the spotlight after pulling off stunts like marching or kneeling with protestors, or openly attacking prominent politicians like former president Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz. Although a Republican, he proved to be a rogue himself by speaking at the Democratic National Convention and telling Trump to “keep his mouth shut” after his threat to send in the military in order to quash protests.
The Cuban American police chief’s left-wing bent made him a fixture on CNN, where he would speak often of police reform, social justice, and increasing gun control (the Miami Herald described him as an “anti-gun-violence crusader”). He also has strong views about enforcing COVID restrictions, and previously criticized Texan Governor Abbott for not wanting to penalize those who don’t wear masks.
He first made national headlines in 2016 while acting as the Chief of Police in Austin, Texas. An audio recording of him berating his leadership after the killing of a naked, unarmed teenager leaked and went viral. In it he said, “If you can’t handle a kid in broad daylight, naked, and your first instinct is to come out with your gun, and your next instinct is to shoot the kid dead, you don’t need to be a cop,” he vented. “I don’t give a s— how nice you are.”
However, critics (even on the left) have accused him of “grandstanding” and “self-promotion.” They noted that Acevedo wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post calling for police accountability after a period of six weeks during which his officers had shot and killed six men, five of whom were “of color.” Acevedo refused to release video of the incidents.
The hiring of an outsider was an unusual move from Miami, who usually promotes senior officers to the position. Sociology Chair Alex Piquero at the University of Miami was also surprised, and said that his outspokenness may rub people the wrong way, but that he “supports the cops and the community.”
“He’s a real high-profile, highly visible chief, and he’s dealt with a lot of high-profile events,” Piquero said.