From the Associated Press
MIAMI (AP) — Art Acevedo, the Houston police chief who forged a national profile by calling for gun control, marching with protesters after George Floyd’s death and criticizing President Donald Trump is taking the top job in the Miami Police Department, news outlets reported.
“I think this is like getting the Tom Brady or the Michael Jordan of police chiefs,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told the Miami Herald.
The mayor is set to make a formal announcement on Monday morning, and Acevedo is expected to begin the job in about six weeks, news outlets reported. He would replace Chief Jorge Colina, who retired in February, becoming Miami’s fifth chief the past decade.
Acevedo, a 56-year-old Cuban American, spent five years as chief in Houston, overseeing a 5,400-person force with a more than $1 billion yearly budget, after a five-year stint. The Miami police force is much smaller, with a staff of 1,400.
He sent an email to his department, calling the move “truly bittersweet,” the Houston Chronicle reported.
“We have been through so much as an extended family; Hurricane Harvey, two World Series, a Super Bowl, Irma, the summer of protests, and most recently, an ice storm of epic proportion,” Acevedo wrote. “On top of all of this, sadly we have buried 6 of our fallen heroes. No matter the challenge, you have all risen to the occasion, and you have honored the sacrifices of our fallen comrades with resiliency and sustained excellence.”
Acevedo said that with Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner’s final term in office fast approaching, “we decided the timing for this move was good.”
He wasn’t on the radar during a six-week search for a new chief, the Herald and WPLG reported.
He didn’t participate in the months-long interview process by City Manager Art Noriega, who has sole responsibility for the hiring of the city’s police chief. Noriega confirmed Acevedo’s hiring to the Miami Herald on Sunday night.
Acevedo is a Republican who spoke by video on the opening night of the last year’s Democratic convention. That appearance came after Acevedo responded sharply to a demand by President Donald Trump that governors had to start dominating protesters or he’d send in the military. Acevedo told the president to keep his “mouth shut” if he didn’t have anything constructive to say.
Acevedo is active on Twitter, calling for gun control and weighing in on other national issues. He has an image as a progressive reformer, but he’s been criticized for dragging his feet on releasing videos of police shootings, and a task force appointed during last summer’s protests over racial injustice made more than 100 recommendations for improving Houston’s police department.
The Herald reported that Acevedo connected with Suarez through the mayor’s membership in the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Noriega, who met with Acevedo over the past month, began to recruit him.
“It helps to have a mayor that has the profile that he does,” Noriega told the newspaper. “We just landed a change agent for the city in terms of just policing and law enforcement.”
Noriega told the Herald he met quietly with Acevedo on two occasions two weeks ago, and finalized the deal in recent days.
Acevedo was born in Havana and is the son of a Cuban police officer, the Herald reported. The family emigrated to the U.S. in 1968, settling in California, and he received a bachelor of science degree from the University of La Verne.
He served in the California Highway Patrol, working his way to chief in 2005. In 2007, he became police chief in Austin, Texas. In 2016, he became the first Hispanic to run Houston’s police department.
In Miami, Colina led the department through federal oversight after a series of police shootings, the pandemic and last summer’s protest. The city interviewed a number of applicants from within the department, as well as from cities across the country.
Noriega told the Herald that while the internal candidates to replace Colina were strong, he believes Acevedo’s background will complement Miami’s command staff.
“He kind of considers himself a chief-maker. From a command staff standpoint, they should all react incredibly positively to the idea that we’re bringing in somebody who can take them to the next level,” Noriega said. “It’s not slight on them. There were some good internal candidates. But with his background and his skill set, it really is a no-brainer and they should be able to understand that.”