Miami Beach Police Department
Q&A with Ernesto Rodriguez
The MBVCA sat down with Ernesto Rodriguez, the Public Information Officer of the Miami Beach Police Department (MBPD), to discuss why he loves being a law enforcement officer in Miami Beach and discuss how the MBPD is developing community relationships and keeping Miami Beach protected.
Tell us about yourself! How long have you been on the force/in your position as the spokesperson of the Miami Beach Police Department; how does this role differ from previously held positions?
I am a 35 year old Cuban-American. I have been with Miami Beach PD for 12 years, two of those years as the Public Information Officer (PIO). I have worked as a patrol officer, Special Investigations Squad detective, Neighborhood Resource Officer and Field Training Officer. While all of these assignments have been rewarding, I find my role as the Public Information Officer especially rewarding. Not only am I honored to be a representative of this great police agency, but journalism has always been a specific area of interest. In my role as PIO, I have the best of both worlds; I get to be a police officer and also have the opportunity to tell the Department’s story.
Tell us about the Miami Beach Police Department; what makes being a law enforcement officer in Miami Beach unique? Especially when compared to other popular tourist destinations or neighborhoods of South Florida?
Miami Beach PD consists of nearly 400 sworn officers. We have the unique challenge of policing residential, business and tourist districts. We have only 90,000 full-time residents, but we have over 9 million tourists who are visitors every year, which makes this a fascinating place to do police work. Each area of the city has its own unique flavor, with specific challenges and opportunities. We are fortunate to have not only a diverse community but also a very diverse police department. Our officers are professionals who understand the unique nature of Miami Beach and the neighborhoods they serve.
We know the MBPD had a ‘holiday cheer’ program and handed out gift cards to unsuspecting drivers, what other community building programs can we expect in 2017? How important is building trust and goodwill within a community to the MBPD?
We partnered with the Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police, our police union, for the gift card giveaway over the holidays. While policing is going through some challenging times, it is important to remember that we are here to work together with our community members. The card giveaway is one example of our efforts to demonstrate goodwill and reinforce our appreciation for the community we serve every day. Another recent effort that we hope to continue in 2017 is the “Coffee with a Cop” initiative. This program brings the community and law enforcement together to simply have a cup of coffee. There is no set agenda, and we have found this to be a great opportunity to build relationships and better understand resident’s concerns. Finally, for the past few years, we have used social media as another platform to highlight MBPD’s interactions in the community. I manage the police department’s Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds and am very proud of the growth and support our Department has seen as result of our social media presence. We are recognized as a leading police agency in the use of social media.
How does the city serve the community and guarantee safety for both visitors and locals? How do you think the MBPD has made the most positive impact within the community in the past year?
In addition to the police officers we have patrolling throughout the entire city of Miami Beach, we also pay special attention to our Entertainment District. A portion of our Entertainment District is Ocean Drive, an iconic destination for many of our visitors, with Art Deco facades, world famous restaurants and nightlife. In late 2014, a dedicated Ocean Drive squad consisting of six officers and one sergeant was created to deter criminal activity and keep our visitors safe. Consistent with the City Commission’s vision, we are developing a second Ocean Drive squad, which will provide added safety to all those who visit and enjoy what Ocean Drive offers.
Last year Detective Juan Sanchez was honored at the Winter Party Festival for his work as an LGBT liaison since 2010. How has the program evolved since then and how has it been successful? Would you say that Miami Beach is a safer place for LGBT visitors and residents?
Detective Sanchez continues to be the Department’s official liaison to the LGBT community. He has been recognized locally and nationally for his expertise and commitment, including working with the U.S. Department of Justice to design and implement LGBT and transgender awareness training across the country. We are very proud of his accomplishments. For 2017, Detective Sanchez and other police and city representatives will be pushing out a new program to provide formal “Safe Spaces” in select Miami Beach businesses. The police department will be coordinating with local business to offer the program, with a focus on providing a safe area for those who may have experienced victimization. The program also provides businesses with essential steps for reporting crime and helping the victim. A colorful “SAFE” poster will be provided to all participating business owners, which will be prominently posted. We will be excited to share more about this initiative in the weeks ahead. So stay tuned!
Lastly, why do you love Miami Beach?
Not only do I work for the City of Miami Beach, I am also a resident. I truly believe that Miami Beach has everything; from nightlife to events geared towards residents and visitors. There’s always something to do on Miami Beach. Additionally, my two dogs, Buddy and Stella, absolutely love our parks! As cliché as it may sound, Miami Beach offers a great quality of life for any lifestyle.