MIAMI (CBS4) – A veteran detective who is considered to be a legend in the Miami Police homicide unit has retired after 38 years on the job. Twenty-five of those years were in the homicide unit and 10 of those years as Commander of the unit.
A CBS4 crew was inside the homicide unit as 62-year-old Lt. John Buhrmaster received hugs from fellow detectives and a special embrace from his daughter Melissa, who is now a Miami Police Sergeant and who stopped by to see her father.
“Miami is my home and of course becoming a Miami policeman is something I never thought of, but of course I did it. It became my dream and this became my life,” Buhrmaster told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench.
Buhrmaster has been named Officer of the Year three different times by the city and the state and has also received three medals for distinguished service from the Fraternal Order of Police.
“I received bronze, silver and gold medals from the Fraternal Order of Police and was very honored,” said Buhrmaster.
Buhrmaster has had 13 Police Chiefs during his time at Miami Police and vividly remembers cases involving the notorious Cocaine Cowboys from the late 1970s and early 1980s and the McDuffie Riots and Mariel Boatlift of 1980.
CBS4 caught up with Buhrmaster on April 6th of 1993 as he and other Miami Police detectives were scouring Miami-Dade for the killer of German tourist Barbara Jensen. At the time, Buhrmaster expressed optimism about solving that case. He did and his colleagues did find Jensen’s killer.
“Once the pieces fit together, you feel great,” said Buhrmaster. “You feel great that you have been able to do this. I like the complexities of these cases and the way you feel when they are solved. It is gratifying and it is a very difficult job.”
Buhrmaster joined the Department in June of 1974.
“Miami is my home and of course becoming a Miami Policeman is something I never thought of but of course I did it. It became my dream and this became my life.”
“I knew that I was home,” said Buhrmaster. “It was a natural fit for me. I enjoy the investigations. I enjoy the challenges and the complications of putting these cases together and chasing the bad guys.”
“I had a great career,” said Buhrmaster. “I came from a poor family and feel I accomplished a lot, particularly for someone who hated school, except for sports.”
Looking ahead, Buhrmaster said, “I know we feel a tremendous sense of gratitude for these young kids who come in here and become tremendous investigators and they learn. They learn from all of us.”
Fellow veteran detectives told D’Oench they looked up to Buhrmaster as a teacher.
Detective Confesor Gonzalez, who has been a detective for 26 years and with the department for 31 years, said, “He has a wealth of knowledge. What he has forgotten we have yet to learn.”
Sgt. Eunice Cooper, who is the new Commander of the homicide unit, said, “He is by far the best crime scene person and the best note taker in the world. He never ran away from work and everything was a challenge.”
“ I could call him in the middle of the night and he would always respond to a crime scene,” said Cooper, who has been a detective for 25 years and who has been with the department for nearly 30 years.
As a going away gift, Buhrmaster received a white Guayabera for slower days with the words “MiamI Police Homicide unit” stitched into it.
Buhrmaster said he planned to take some time off but would remain in South Florida since his family is here.
He said he will also be looking for another job in the field he loves most: law enforcement.
“This is a very bittersweet day,” Buhrmaster said. “I have been going through a roller coaster ride of emotions. I just told my wife that I have packed away my entire life in boxes.”