Jun 11, 2020 - Politics & Policy

How the city of Miami Gardens built trust in police

Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert III surrounded by colleagues at the 2017 United States Conference of Mayors. Photo: Raul E. Diego/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.
Miami Gardens Mayor Oliver G. Gilbert III surrounded by colleagues at the 2017 United States Conference of Mayors. Photo: Raul E. Diego/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images.

In Miami Gardens, Florida, the police department gives hiring preference to candidates with a local address.

The state of play: Mayor Oliver Gilbert III credits that initiative with increasing diversity within its police force (more than 50% of officers are black) and building a strong bond with the community.

  • "The surest way to make sure our police officers have relationships with the community is making sure officers are from the community," said Gilbert, who's been mayor since 2012.

The big picture: Gilbert isn't focused on defunding the city's police department. The idea of demilitarizing the police and spending money on other community priorities is already happening, he said.

  • The city already mandates implicit bias training and body cameras.
  • Thanks to a growing economy and relatively stable budget, the city has been able to expand educational and recreational programs for kids, create a department of civic engagement, and invest in new public parks.

In support of Black Lives Matter, on Tuesday, at 8:46am, all digital billboards in the city simultaneously broadcast photos of local children and a message in honor of George Floyd for 8 minutes and 46 seconds — the amount of time Floyd was pinned to the ground.

  • "We need to always have law enforcement present, but we don't need to over-police," he said, adding that a police department should have the resources it needs to do its job.
  • "Law enforcement isn't the only way you enforce the law; you do it with community engagement."
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