Not in my city, not on my watch

Miami PD protects a diverse population by building trust


Tony Utset, Sr., executive assistant for the Miami PD, heads a program to incorporate the cameras into the 911 center and coordinate their feed with incident commanders and patrol units.

"We've seen what powerful crime deterrents cameras can be in other cities," he says. "While other agencies use them for community policing, we are taking a different approach. We are using them in areas where there is a likelihood of an incident occurring, or an area a terrorist might find lucrative." While not being specific about their locations, Utset indicates that the financial, transportation and critical infrastructure areas within the city have been identified and will soon be under the department's watchful eye.

Monitoring will be done at Miami's 911 call center, where cameras already monitor busy intersections. The center receives a combined fire and police total of 65,000 calls a month.

Linda Spagnoli is a law enforcement advocate in the areas of communication, child safety, officer safety and sex offender tracking. She may be reached at ljspagnoli@aol.com.

The chief's perspective

Miami Chief of Police John F. Timoney brings a wealth of experience to Miami. After serving in the ranks of the New York Police Department (NYPD) for 28 years, he became the city's youngest four-star chief. He then became the chief of police for the city of Philadelphia. Four years later, in January of 2003, he took the reins at the Miami Police Department. During his tenure in Miami, Timoney has introduced one of the nation's most restrictive shooting policies — leading to a 20-month period during which not a single bullet was discharged at a civilian — and has seen crime drop by 11 percent. He shares his thoughts on tough issues, including immigration, disaster preparedness and police-related shootings.

On emergencies: "South Florida has an advantage in that we have had a lot of opportunities, through hurricanes, etc., to test our preparedness. We've learned to rely on our highly trained professionals and a very savvy population."

On immigration issues: "We would hate for a witness or a victim of a crime to hesitate coming forward to police with important information because he or she fears that we would question their immigration status … that would be a tragedy. We want the people of Miami to know that our officers are there to help and protect them, not to harass them with green-card checks. With that said, a criminal is still a criminal regardless of immigration status, and if someone commits a serious felony, immigration will be notified of that arrest by the corrections department."

On the use of deadly force: "There are no good shootings, let me make that clear. However, an officer has a right to defend himself, and will only use deadly force as a last resort to protect his own life or that of an innocent citizen."

On violence against officers: "It seems to be rampant across the country. Something is afoot; it's not just a blip on the radar screen. There is a definite increase in officers being shot and killed in the line of duty, and there also seems to be a trend of assailants utilizing assault rifles to commit these offenses."

— Linda Spagnoli

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