MIAMI – Former Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo was sworn in Monday morning as the City of Miami’s 42nd police chief.
He was joined at the ceremony by his wife and son, along with city leaders and law enforcement officials.
“I’m not going to be the Cuban chief. I’m not going to be the Latino chief. I’m not going to be the chief of California or Texas,” Acevedo told the crowd. “I’m going to be the chief of Miami because we are going to represent and serve all people from all nations, from all colors, from all sexual orientations and from all walks of life regardless of social-economic standing, and we’re going to be a police department and we will promote people, we will put people forward, we will select people for positions not based on relationships, but based on merit – I guarantee that.”
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez announced Acevedo’s appointment last month, calling him one of the best police chiefs in the nation.
As the head of the Houston Police Department, Acevedo led the fourth-largest police department in the country.
Highlights of his time there included last summer’s marches for racial equity and videos of him standing with demonstrators garnered national attention.
“You can tell he is a change agent,” Suarez said.
“As a city, we didn’t hit a home run, we hit a grand slam,” City Manager Art Noriega added.
But there were also challenges during Acevedo’s tenure in Houston, including mounting lawsuits related to high-profile, police-related incidents, including the 2019 Harding Street raid where two people died inside their home and he’s jumping to Miami at a time when Houston’s homicide rate is rising.
But Miami’s mayor told Local 10 News that the homicide rate in Miami is also on the rise.
“We went from 47 [percent] to 62 [percent]. It is almost a 20 percent increase from last year to this year — that is a concern for me,” Suarez said.
“What do you think you would do to fight crime differently in Miami?” Local 10 News reporter Christina Vazquez asked Acevedo.
“I have already talked to the state prosecutor. Her representatives are here. We are going to access what we can do better and take it from there,” he said.
During a press conference last month outside Miami City Hall, Acevedo told reporters that his first order of business would be building trust with the community.
“We’re living in a time in our nation’s history where the American people are hurting,” Acevedo said. “And there’s a lot of pain in this nation. And unless we take the time to feel that pain, process that pain, acknowledge that pain of communities of color that disproportionately are impacted by bad policing, we will never get beyond the summer of 2020.”
Acevedo said he is not about politics but about service and would advocate on behalf of any good cop, but would not accept mediocrity within the department.
“I am tough on bad policing and I am not going to apologize for it,” he said following his swearing-in ceremony.
Acevedo, who was born in Cuba, was the first Hispanic person to lead the Houston Police Department.
He succeeds former Police Chief Jorge Colina, who retired in February after being Miami’s chief of police for three years.
Miami’s city manager confirmed that Acevedo will be starting off with a $315,000 annual salary, which is more than he was making in Houston even though the Houston Police Department is a much larger department.
Per data from the U.S. Census, Houston is nearly four times larger in population than Miami.
Acevedo’s salary is also nearly $100,000 more than what his predecessor was making. Colina confirmed he was making about $230,000 when he retired.
Miami’s mayor says the salary was necessary to recruit someone of his experience to Miami from another city.
“It is slightly more than he was making in Houston and we wanted to attract him,” Suarez said. “For the years of experience that he has, I think it is totally in line with what he should be compensated.”
As for why he chose to leave Houston for Miami, Acevedo was passionate in his response as he closed his remarks Monday.
“For those who ask, ‘Why are you going to Miami?’ — you obviously haven’t been here,” he said with a smile. “This is Miami, baby. That’s why Will Smith wrote a song about our city. God bless you all, let’s get to work!”
#DigitalDeepDive (VIDEO) @ArtAcevedo, Houston's police chief, is now the top cop in Miami. Many of you sent me some great questions - you have the opportunity to hear his responses to those questions in this clip. #SoundOn ▶️ https://t.co/3f2qgYMRko— Christina Vazquez (@CBoomerVazquez) March 18, 2021
.@ArtAcevedo responded: “First of all, if you talk to sociologists, homicides are the most challenging.” The chief deflected from speaking to specific police strategies, instead directing attention toward what he believes is an inefficient court system amid the ongoing pandemic. pic.twitter.com/VCMTMegf3m— Christina Vazquez (@CBoomerVazquez) March 18, 2021