Manny Morales, who spent the past five months navigating Miami’s tricky political terrain and reversing questionable personnel decisions made under his controversial predecessor, was named to the position permanently Monday — the city’s fifth police chief the past decade.
Morales, 50, took the helm of the high-profile agency and its more than 1,300 sworn officers in October after a tumultuous six months that led to the firing of Art Acevedo, who lasted only six months after angering city leaders with a series of puzzling decisions and awkward public statements.
“After further evaluating Chief Morales’ performance during the first 100 days, I am extremely confident that he is eminently qualified, respected and admired by many and will continue to do a great job as Chief for the Police Department,” City Manager Art Noriega said in a statement Monday.
Morales, 51, was sworn in when he took over on Oct. 14. Noriega removed his interim title mostly under the radar Monday. There is not expected to be another swearing-in ceremony.
“The priorities are going to remain the same since I took over as interim,” said the city’s new police chief. “I’m going to prioritize reduction of firearm violence, restore trust in the community and improve officer safety, morale and professionalism.”
Morales was named interim after a chaotic six months in which Acevedo — a high-profile and outspoken former Houston police chief — referred to Miami police brass as the “Cuban Mafia” at least twice, and after he removed several key members of the agency’s senior staff. They included its deputy police chief and his wife, who commanded Little Havana, along with one of the city’s highest-ranked Black female officers.
The agency was ridiculed publicly and privately in October during a week-long public lashing of Acevedo by city commissioners, who questioned everything from his dance moves to leadership, before firing him. Morales, who was a finalist for the chief’s job before Acevedo was unexpectedly named chief by Noriega and Mayor Francis Suarez a year ago, was named interim to return calm to the department.
“I think the last administration was incredibly successful at fracturing the department. The past five months have been more about unifying and healing and bringing civility back the agency,” Morales said Tuesday morning.
During his past three decades in Miami, Morales has held most of the agency’s coveted positions, including running field operations for two-thirds of Miami’s police force.
He spent the first five years of his Miami policing career as a patrol officer, then graduated to detective work in violent crimes until 2001. He spent the next four years as a patrol sergeant and supervised the agency’s Crisis Intervention Team. In 2007 he was promoted to lieutenant, and oversaw the gang unit and auto theft details. From 2009 through 2016 he served as a Neighborhood Enhancement Team commander in Little Haiti, the Upper Eastside and Coconut Grove. From there he was promoted to a major in field operations and assistant chief.
The Miami Police Department, which has adopted more progressive policing methods in recent years, has had to deal with federal oversight and a pair of consent decrees twice the past two decades, mainly because of excessive use-of-force concerns.
The most recent agreement ended in 2019 with Miami police agreeing to new training procedures and de-escalation practices after a series of police-involved shootings dating back more than a decade. Morales promised the agency would continue with those practices.