About 100 Model City residents grilled Miami Police Chief John Timoney last night about why he was moving Commander Lorenzo Whitehead from his post as NET Commander. Whitehead has been the top cop in the area, which includes the Liberty Square housing projects, for about a year.
"This man is loved here," resident Khary Bruyning told TImoney. Residents nodded and applauded. Whitehead grew up in Liberty City, they said, and is familiar with the poverty, drug dealing and violence that plagues the area. Several residents applauded Whitehead on his policing skills and instilling a sense of security in recent months, citing the fact that he had given residents his cell phone number and encouraged local kids to take karate classes.
Timoney, who stood at the front of the room with his arms folded, wasn't swayed by the residents' pleas.
"There are a lot of reasons for change," Timoney said. "This is not a negative plan." Whitehead, he explained, was being reassigned to cover the Brickell Avenue/Coral Way area because of promotions and staff changes.
The fact that crime has gone up in Model City over the past year has nothing to do with Whitehead's reassignment, he added. The new commander, Bernard Johnson, will soon take Whitehead's post.
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Sighed Bruyning: "We know that Timoney is going to do exactly what he wants to do, and that we're irrelevant."
Deputy Chief Frank Fernandez attempted to placate the crowd by saying, "We will not be taking anything from you. We're going to stop the shooting and stop the violence."
One weary mother in the crowd had heard that before. "Is he going to help out the kids?" she asked out loud, to no one in particular. "Does he care what's going on here?" -- Tamara Lush