Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo moving to Miami for top cop post

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Outspoken Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo is leaving the Texas department – the fourth largest in the nation – to take the helm as Miami’s top cop, he and officials announced Monday.

Acevedo, who is also the president of the Major Cities Chiefs Association, joined City of Miami officials on Monday morning to announce his decision to succeed Jorge Colina as head of the police department. He is expected to take on the new role in four to eight weeks, once he is able to tie off loose ends in Houston.

“I can tell you,” he said, “I wasn’t looking for this opportunity … but service is in my heart, and making a difference is in my heart, and what people need to understand is that our communities are watching us as leaders not just for what we say and do, but for what we fail to say and do.”

He promised to maintain transparency while also ensuring due process, and said building trust was among his top priorities.

“We will not tolerate mediocrity at the Miami Police Department. And I will not apologize for getting rid of mediocrity,” he continued. “Because when you allow mediocrity to fester, the community sees it. They know it, and it spreads like a cancer.”

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. The Miami police force is much smaller, with a staff of 1,400.

He was not on the radar during a six-week search for a new chief, the Miami Herald and WPLG reported. He didn’t participate in the monthslong interview process by city manager Art Noriega, who has sole responsibility for the hiring of the city’s police chief.

Houston affiliate FOX 26 announced early Monday that Acevedo had resigned from his post after four-and-a-half years. In his resignation letter to Mayor Sylvester Turner and City employees that obtained by the news station, Acevedo called his decision to leave “bittersweet.”

“We have been through so much as an extended family; Hurricane Harvey, two World Series, a Super Bowl, Irma, the Summer (sic) of protests, and most recently, an ice storm of epic proportion,” he said. “On top of all of this, sadly we have buried 6 of our fallen heroes.”

He concluded the letter by writing that he will “continue to be an advocate for [his employees] and the victims of crime who are being negatively impacted by the misguided decisions of the Harris County judiciary and criminal justice system.”

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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 former President 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, where he has called for gun control and weighed 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.

“I think this is like getting the Tom Brady or the Michael Jordan of police chiefs,” Miami Mayor Francis Suarez told the Miami Herald.

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.

When asked on Monday why he chose to come to Miami, Acevedo said, “Miami is the gateway to the Americas. Miami is the gateway to Europe …Miami is a city on the move.”

Houston Police Department Chief Art Acevedo updates the media on the conditions of officers injured during a shooting earlier in the evening, at a news conference outside of the emergency department of Memorial Hermann Hospital in the Texas Medical Center, Monday, Jan. 28, 2019, in Houston. (Mark Mulligan/Houston Chronicle via AP)

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.

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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.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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