In January, the Magic City's PD had to extend the deadline for accepting applications because not enough men and women had registered to join the 1024-member force.
Every year the city holds three 30-day sign-up periods, each drawing about 500 would-be cops. But last month only 300 people applied. During the previous recruiting period in November, 182 aspirants sent in their paperwork.
Why? Rookie salaries at MPD are lower than those at smaller police departments in Miami-Dade County, says Armando Aguilar, president of the Miami Fraternal Order of Police, which represents Miami cops. "Our starting salaries don't match up with other local law enforcement agencies," Aguilar notes.
Indeed the city's starting pay ranks behind fifteen other local departments, including Coral Gables and Miami Beach. Those cities pay rookies more than $40,000 a year, about eleven percent above Miami's $36,189 annual starting salary, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Aguilar fears the department might end up hiring unfit lawmen as it did just before the 1980s Miami River cops scandal, when well over 100 officers were arrested, fired, suspended, or reprimanded for crimes including ripping off drug dealers.
Generally only one in eighteen recruits survives vetting and training to become a city cop and the Miami PD is likely to lose roughly 400 officers to retirement over the next two years. "We could have another situation like the Miami River cops," Aguilar opines, "when the city was hiring just about anybody to deal with the influx of immigrants."