EL PORTAL (CBSMiami) – El Portal Police Chief David Magnusson hopes he will never lose his passion for police work and says while police have to be relentless in their pursuit of criminals they must also be compassionate in the way in which they treat victims.
CBS4’s Peter D’Oench spoke at length on Tuesday to Magnusson, who has been Chief of El Portal since May and whose agency recently won a national ring award given to small police agencies.
Magnusson graduated from the police Academy at the age of 22 and then worked with Miami Police from 1985 to 2014 and was a spokesman in their Public Information Department for several years. Magnusson became well known on camera nationwide in the spring of 1993 talking about the attacks on German tourists in Miami.
After leaving the Miami Police Department, he served as Police Chief of Havelock, North Carolina for three years. He supervises up to 20 officers who work in the Village which has 2200 residents.
“I believe in staying active,” said the 57-year-old Magnusson. “One of my favorite pursuits was, was going after robbers and working in narcotics as a commander in different areas of the city.”
“I was told as a kid that I was hyper,” he said. “I am still hyper and that has served me well coming up through the ranks because as you are people will follow. If you want to be comatose, you are going to have comatose cops. When I look over here by the railroad tracks, when I worked in Miami, this is where I used to come all the time because we used to have trailer parks that were high in crime.”
Magnusson has a master’s degree in military history from American Military University.
“When you study history,” he said, “You study leadership on all scales.”
He was also an amateur boxer for 26 years and has refereed matches.
When he talks about El Portal, he uses boxing metaphors.
“We may be a bantamweight but as such we strive to be champions,” he said. “Don’t mistake our bantamweight for us being any less important. We are going to be the best we can be in terms of being professional and for follow up on crimes and customer service. If you break the law we are going to track you down and go after you.”
“We have a little bit of crime in El Portal,” he said, “and this is where the ring camera comes in. It has helped us solve a lot of crime. We had a rash of car break-ins. We did one arrest and they would go away.”
Magnusson worked with a series of police chiefs while at the Miami Police Department.
“The greatest compliment I can get for any officer young or old is that you never change. You are always a cop’s cop,” he said. “I take that as a badge of honor because I never lost my lure for the street and why I became a street cop. And pardon the cliché. We are always here to protect and serve.”
“Coming up in patrol in Miami, I was supervising patrols and narcotics and the robbery unit doing investigations and going out for looking for robbers which is always exciting and setting up on robbery details for surveillance,” he said. “I was able to work in the 911 communications center and with SWAT and K-9 and the gang unit.”
Magnusson and his wife Rosa have five children and two grandchildren. In his spare time, he said, “I like to travel, spend time with the family and babysit my grandkids. I love to cook and read and do research.”
Magnusson follows a series of Miami Police officers who have gone on to become police chiefs in other Miami-Dade Cities. They include Rene Landa, who is police chief of South Miami and Nelson Andreu, who is Police Chief of West Miami and David Rivero who is chief of police at the University of Miami.
Magnusson said, “This is also a badge of honor because when you come from the Miami Police Department you are set up for leadership and success. With that police department all roads lead to success.”
He also said compassion for victims is important.
“If we can be out there to help people,” he said, “that is out job, being proactive and helping people. You have to be vigilant when it comes to helping victims and people look to us to help them. That compassion can go a long way.”
Magnusson who has been in police work for 35 years is apparently showing no signs of slowing down.