By Chuck Strouse
By Scott Fishman
By Terrence McCoy
By Ryan Yousefi
By Ciara LaVelle, Kat Bein, Carolina Del Busto, and Liz Tracy
By Pepe Billete
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Swenson
"The feeling is that no matter what you say, you'll get fucked, even if it's neutral," says one officer, explaining why some of the chief's critics are frightened to challenge Huber publicly: "These are people who carry guns, will crash into bars, arrest people, get into shoot-outs --
people who are prepared to take a life if they have to. And they're afraid to talk about the chief."
Huber, though, says the disgruntlement is limited to "five percent" of the department, with Barreto and Solowitz in front. "I think they grossly overestimated their support," Huber says sternly, punctuating his words with short jabs of his heavy hands. "I think they have been in charge of the department far too long, and it amazes me that they say their careers have been bullied when they have a reputation for bullying. It's almost an incestuous, Peyton Place-type atmosphere, and their only mission in this is to run me off. Well, I'm not going to be run off. I'm here for the long haul."
If so, Huber's record will have to bear scrutiny from more than just angry department employees. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement recently investigated the training of Huber and commanders Zaworski and Frame to become certified as Florida police officers. (Florida law does not require a police chief to be certified, but even veteran police officers from other states, such as Zaworski and Frame, must be certified in order to make arrests and enforce the law.) Although they weren't required to, all three men had volunteered to undergo legal and firearms training, and a police department attorney taught private classes in the chief's office. However, the FDLE's inquiry revealed that Huber's certification classes "were riddled with violations," according to a report filed by the investigator, FDLE field specialist Larry Boemler.
Among the violations, Boemler found that the chief and his commanders had attended less than a quarter of the total class hours required by Florida law, but had signed attendance sheets claiming they had satisfied the required hours. Furthermore, the attendance sheets were signed only after the course was completed.
Boemler also found that the final exam was administered in the chief's office with access to law books and was monitored by a probationary lieutenant, both acts in violation of certification rules. "If he [the lieutenant] had detected any irregularities, it would be difficult to report them for fear of demotion," Boemler wrote in his report. "As it was, the lieutenant was asked by Commander Frame not to remain in the room while the test was going on.... The lieutenant states he was called back to the room once the exam was over." Frame told Boemler he never ordered the lieutenant out of the room.
Huber quickly blames everyone but himself for the certification snafu. "I am absolutely disgusted with this," he says vehemently. "This is the biggest example of poor staff work and miscommunication that I've ever been involved with in my life." Huber lays most of the blame on his training staff -- particularly Steven Robbins -- for not designing a certification program in compliance with state rules. "I find it absolutely unconscionable that I've been left in this position," Huber bellows, "and that's an example of the performance that I've been talking about -- when you're given a mission to set something up and you set it up back asswards."
However, memos sent from Robbins to Huber concerning the certification classes clearly indicate that all the hours were to be conducted in class, and that attendance was to be documented at each class. "I think he realizes he needs some scapegoats, and I'm convenient at this time," Robbins says. "He demoted me and knows that I'm complaining to the federal government, and he knows as a demoted commander, I'm an easy target. He's in trouble because of his own behavior."
To complement that controversy, Huber has committed minor infractions and politically dubious actions that have cost him some respect both within and outside the department.
Early in Huber's tenure, he attached a trailer hitch to his assigned city vehicle without permission in order to tow a Waverunner down to the Keys, says former City Manager Parkins.
Soon after Huber moved into his three-story house in a well-to-do neighborhood of Miami Beach, he asked Parkins to remove a bus bench from outside his house on Alton Road. Huber says his house was robbed twice within his first few months in Miami Beach, and he believed people riding the bus were to blame. "I saw people at the bus bench looking over my fence," Huber says. "I made a connection between people riding the bus and the fact that conveyances -- bicycles -- were stolen."
Huber asked for, and received, three pay raises in his first five months as chief, says Parkins, who approved the raises. The boosts increased Huber's annual salary from $81,936 to $92,316. "We had agreed on a starting salary, then Huber came to me and said he'd made a mistake," Parkins says. "The raises were within the salary range for a police chief. And at the beginning he performed very well." News of the salary hikes, though, surprised several current city officials who learned about them recently.