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Miami Beach Police Chief Dan Oates Is Retiring Amid Squabbles With City Officials

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A handful of Miami Beach commissioners have spent the past few years browbeating police Chief Daniel Oates about crime in the city despite the fact that crime rates are historically low on the island. Oates has had to fend off repeated attacks on his department from city officials. And now, after Commissioner Michael Góngora publicly floated the idea of firing Oates last September, the chief today announced that, when his employment contract ends in June, he'll retire from law enforcement.

"As you know, it was always my plan to end my career here with the Miami Beach Police Department," Oates wrote in an open letter to City Manager Jimmy Morales. "It has been an absolute honor to serve with the extraordinary men and women of MBPD. They give so much every day to keep this city safe. They are superheroes." (WPLG first reported the news earlier today.)

Oates, who did not immediately respond to a message from New Times today, likely would not say similarly glowing things about some of the city's current lawmakers. After MBPD suffered through a series of scandals, city officials in 2014 brought in Oates, who was previously the police chief in Aurora, Colorado, when that city experienced an infamous mass shooting at a movie theater in 2012. Oates later faced an increasing barrage of attacks from some Miami Beach commissioners, who, rightly or wrongly, blamed his department for failing to control increasingly large crowds of party-going tourists.

During his tenure, Oates has fought with city officials for years over basic facts about the city's crime levels. Despite the fact that the chief has repeatedly cited data showing this is the safest time in Miami Beach since before the cocaine cowboys era, some city lawmakers have refused to take Oates and his department at their word. Instead, some elected officials have sided with citizens' crime-watch groups that dubiously claim crime is flourishing in the city.

Perhaps most infamous, former Commissioner Kristen Rosen Gonzalez in 2017 chastised Oates after the city experienced a fatal shooting during that year's Memorial Day weekend festivities. In a series of emails later leaked to New Times and the Miami Herald, Rosen Gonzalez claimed that Oates was "failing at leading his troops" and that, as a result, crime was allegedly rampant on Ocean Drive. In the same chain of emails, Rosen Gonzalez stated the chief needed to "give the cops back their bullets" and "remove their body cams," statements for which she later apologized.

Last year, city lawmakers heaped criticism on Oates once again. Commissioner Góngora, for example, has repeatedly claimed that, because city residents "perceive" there to be a crime problem, Oates needs to deal with it. During a tense September meeting of the city's Neighborhoods Committee, Góngora reportedly mused about whether the city should fire the chief.

Rosen Gonzalez, who sat on the board at the time, agreed.

"They’re telling us that this is the worst it’s ever been... and you’re telling us that that’s not true," she said, according to Miami Beach blogger Susan Askew. "Now imagine the situation that we’re in because we’re expecting you to do a job that our residents are perceiving is not being done because they don’t feel safe. How are we supposed to feel about you doing your job?”

After yet another squabble this year over "perceived" crime during spring-break festivities on South Beach, Oates has now tendered his resignation. City Manager Morales today issued his own public letter thanking Oates for his time working for the city.

"We look forward to celebrating his career and giving him a proper Miami Beach farewell in June," Morales said.

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