Lonely at the Top

Parkins and his committee settled on Huber, Baltimore County's 41-year-old, ambitious, thick-necked colonel. According to Parkins, the search committee had narrowed its choices to Assistant Chief Lou Guasto and Huber, but felt Guasto might "carry some baggage" from the previous administration. "By having a fresh perspective," Parkins recalls, "I felt Huber would bring some positive qualities to the department." The search committee was primarily impressed with Huber's interdepartmental experience in Baltimore, his rapid rise through the ranks, and his excellent references.

Huber, the first outsider hired to run the Miami Beach Police Department since 1963, signed a five-year contract and set out to redesign the organization. The chief needed to tighten up administration, settle chronic dissention between management and labor, improve the department's crime-fighting record, and win respectability in the public eye. "The department wasn't afraid to work, but I saw an agency that lacked guidance and direction, it lacked planning, it lacked use of data, it lacked modern police techniques," says Huber, now 43, during an interview in his top-floor office at police headquarters on Washington Avenue. "It had a lot of managerial deficiencies. Everything was pretty much done by the seat of their pants."

The new chief began to install a system of accountability by covering the department in a blizzard of paperwork. "We needed to embark on a program of writing down what we do, when we do it, and how we do it," he recalls. The task of checking out a car from the police garage, for instance, was once a matter of simply asking for the keys and dropping it off when you were done. Today there are strict rules governing who can check out cars and requiring close inspection of their condition afterward. The end result, officers say, is that the cars are in better shape and are always where they should be.

Huber also placated a fractious union, still bitter over their treatment under former Chief Glassman. "I felt like I'd parachuted into the World War I trenches, between the Germans and the Allies," Huber says. "It's a classic case where from the union's perspective the enemy is management, and from the management's position, the union is the enemy." Huber made the position of FOP president a full-time job administratively detached from normal duty, and instituted four-day work weeks for all rank-and-file officers, both at union request. He also scheduled weekly labor-management meetings and has supported the union's request for a two-and-a-half-percent pay raise.

In the realm of public safety, Huber created a crime-analysis program with weekly meetings to evaluate the dynamics of crime on Miami Beach and develop methods to combat it. He also designed a crime-prevention plan emphasizing community education and community-based programs such as neighborhood ministations. Says FOP president Lynda Veski: "Before, under Glassman, if you had a crime problem, you didn't even know about it."

Not all of Huber's crime-fighting initiatives, however, have endeared him to the citizens he was hired to protect. His sporadic use of roadblocks to entrap drunk drivers has annoyed many residents and angered business owners who feel the strategy scares visitors away from the Beach. As part of his staunch anti-drug program, Huber began to send undercover officers into nightclubs and bars regularly, an unpopular strategy among club owners who fear their businesses will be closed. And Huber's plan to mail notification letters to employers of people arrested on drug charges has met stiff opposition from civil-rights advocates.

Principal among Huber's management tasks was the need to rearrange the chain of command and fill a gap at the middle-management level left by eight promotions Glassman made just days before he resigned. With "a ton of talent at the rank of sergeant and a ton of talent at the rank of patrolman," Huber says, he has been able to promote about 30 people and encourage upward mobility through the ranks. (The department now has 316 sworn officers, 161 civilians, and a $28,555,833 annual budget.)

The most controversial and profound changes have come in the command staff, upper-level officers with the rank of captain and above. "After sixteen months in the job," Huber says with his customary self-confidence, "I'd decided who were the contenders and who were the pretenders and who was going to take the department into the future and who had public safety at heart."

Part Two
The mass promotion in February 1991 of nineteen people in the rank and file and one captain to major set the tone for Huber's grand redesign of the command staff. Among the changes that ensued from July to September, Huber made two former Baltimore colleagues commanders in the administrative wing of his staff. Huber had brought Martin Zaworski and Robert Frame to Miami Beach in late 1990 as part of his "civilianization" effort -- the program to put civilians in department jobs that don't need police officers. (Zaworski and Frame had retired from the Baltimore County Police Department and were no longer police officers.) The union and many members of the command staff had opposed the hiring and promotion of Zaworksi and Frame, saying it smacked of cronyism and seemed to contradict Huber's plan to encourage upward mobility.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
Next Page »
 
My Voice Nation Help
0 comments
 
Loading...