MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Miami-Dade Police Department director James Loftus spent part of his final day on the job honoring Miami-Dade firefighters who saved one of his officers’ lives. It was a fitting end to a nearly 30 year career with MDPD.
Loftus was honoring firefighters who responded to a call on March 14 of a marked police vehicle that inadvertently slammed into a fire truck. Officer Harry Burkli was left unconscious, pinned in the car as it caught fire.
Fellow officers and the crew of Fire Rescue 16 put the fire out and eventually were able to free the officer from his vehicle.
“Words can’t express the way I feel right now,” said Officer Burkli. “I mean these guys saved my life. What more can I say.”
The fire crews did this even though they had suffered injuries themselves that had to be treated at the hospital.
“I don’t think we deserve honors; this is what we do every day,” said Lt. Wilfredo Serrano of Miami-Dade Fire Rescue. “It was just an extra step because we found out it was one our brothers.”
Director Loftus told CBS4’s Peter D’Oench he was honored to be a part of the event.
“To see someone who has gone through what he’s gone through, and to stand here and recognize the folks who literally saved his life; that is a tremendously fun thing and it’s an awesomely fun thing to do on essentially your last day of work,” Loftus said.
Loftus said the honor and service of the officers and fire department workers was the exact thing he hoped people would recognize in public service workers.
“That’s why you show up and do this from the very start,” Loftus said. “If you lose that somewhere along the line, then leave and do something else.”
Loftus’ retirement is effective October 1st. Loftus denied that he was leaving due to major budget and service cuts to his department.
During his time with MDPD, Loftus held various civil services ranks. Prior to becoming police director in February 2010, Loftus was the Assistant Director over Investigative Services, overseeing major bureaus within MDPD including Homicide, Robbery, Sexual Crimes, Narcotics, Domestic Crimes, Economic Crimes, Warrants, and the Strategic and Specialized Investigation Bureaus.
In an email to what he referred to as his “MDPD Family”, Lofton said “I think I’ve done my part, while you–the men and women of this Department–have in large measure done the rest of the work.”
Lofton went on to say “My greatest professional satisfaction has come from the members of this Department when you referred to me as ‘one of your own’ or ‘a cop’s cop’”. He said that distinction means more to him than any rank achieved.
He closed his email to MDPD with the following: “Never forget who you are…the thin line between good and evil.”
During Lofton’s career, he has served as a supervisor in Uniform Patrol, Professional Compliance Bureau, Criminal Conspiracy Unit, and as Captain of the Homicide Bureau.
In 1999, he was promoted to Major of the Homicide Bureau, and was later promoted and served as Chief of the Criminal Investigations Division.
In addition to his law enforcement experience, Loftus has been actively involved with the Police Officer Assistance Trust (POAT), a non-profit support organization for the law enforcement community of Miami-Dade County, since its inception in 1989.