MIAMI (CBS4) – Miguel Exposito knows the job of Miami police chief comes with a hot seat as standard equipment.
“It is almost like what have you done for me lately,” he told me with a smile and shake of his head.
The grumblings are getting louder. Exposito was sworn in as police chief in November 2009, taking the place of the departing and controversial John Timoney. Miami Mayor Tomas Regalado, proudly stood at Exposito’s side.
Today Regalado’s public endorsement of Exposito has gone from hot to lukewarm at best. I asked him directly if he had lost confidence in the chief. Regalado said, “No, I just have several issues.”
Among them he says: complaints from some residents about too little police presence on the streets, a video of Miami police officers who appear to be pummeling a person in Coconut Grove. That case is now under internal review.
There have been four fatal police involved shootings on Exposito’s watch too. He argued they can be traced, at least in part, to a crackdown on gang related violence that has threatened to overwhelm some city neighborhoods.
When asked Mayor Regalado whether, left up to him alone, Exposito would still be police chief in mid-2011. Regalado replied , “I haven’t seen the crime stats so I can’t answer that.”
Chief Exposito defended his leadership. He told CBS4′s Michael Williams, “When the numbers are in you are going to see there is going to be an overall decline in crime during my watch even though we saved $4 million on overtime costs from the previous year and we are 35 officers shorter than we were the year before.”
City commissioners are weighing in too. Commission chairman Marc Sarnoff said of Exposito, “This man is doing more with less and he is keeping our crime under where it was the previous year. I think he is doing a resounding job.”
Commissioner Richard Dunn thinks Exposito is in “pretty good shape” but he wants more minority representation in the city’s diverse neighborhoods. Dunn said, “I believe in Little Haiti you need Haitian leadership at some point in the department.”
Meanwhile, there are whispers—loud ones in some circles—that the mayor simply wants his original favorite, former deputy chief Luis Cabrera to have Exposito’s job. The city manager makes the “hire or fire” call on the police chief’s job and the new city manager in 2011 will all but certainly be Tony Crapp, Jr., who happens to be Regalado’s former chief of staff.
Crapp didn’t offer a ringing endorsement for Exposito. He said, “I need to look at what is going on. We need to have a conversation. I think he needs more time.” I asked how much time and Crapp responded, “At least 90 days more.”
Chief Exposito is offering a confident public persona. He said, “I have been with this police department almost 37 years. I have had a lot worse times than I am going through right now and I’m not a quitter. I am going to be here for the long haul.”
Perhaps so, but he will be under a magnifying glass in 2011 as policy and politics collide, again, in the Magic City.