African-American selected to be Miami-Dade’s most senior police officer

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Police officers stand together at the AmericanAirlines arena after the memorial service for two Miami-Dade police officers Amanda Haworth and Roger Castillo on January 24, 2011 in Miami, Florida. Castillo and Haworth were killed last Thursday when they were serving an arrest warrant. Today in St Petersburg, Florida two of the city’s police officers were gunned down. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Police officers stand together at the AmericanAirlines arena after the memorial service for two Miami-Dade police officers Amanda Haworth and Roger Castillo on January 24, 2011 in Miami, Florida. Castillo and Haworth were killed last Thursday when they were serving an arrest warrant. Today in St Petersburg, Florida two of the city’s police officers were gunned down. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

MIAMI – An African-American has been selected to lead the Miami-Dade Police Department. County Mayor Carlos Gimenez made a formal announcement Friday morning during a press conference.

The new director, J.D. Patterson Jr., was one of six candidates in the running for the county’s most senior cop. He has been the department’s acting head since November.

The mayor had whittled down the applicants to six possible successors following the early retirement of director Jim Loftus last October. All of the finalists came from within the department.

Patterson, a 28 year veteran of the department, has risen through the ranks from patrolman to assistant director and now this latest post as director. The 52-year-old has overseen a variety of units including auto theft, sexual batteries, and internal affairs.

It is only the second time a African-American has secured the director’s post in the department’s 56-year history. His counterpart, Robert Parker was director from 2004 to 2009.

“His appointment shows that we are in the right direction, or right path, to further diversity,” said Miami-Dade police sergeant James Dixon. The other hopefuls who’d been vying for the job were two African-American women, two Hispanic men and a white police chief.

Patterson takes over the department in the midst of budget constraints and a loss of senior officers. He is due to retire in three years and is expected to initiate a smooth transition when he eventually leaves.

The Miami-Dade Police Department has more than 3,000 sworn officers and over 1,000 civilian staff serving a diverse multi-ethnic community of over 2.4 million people. It is the largest police department in the Southeast, and the 8th largest in the United States.

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