Former Miami Police Chief John F. Timoney, who once kept the entire Miami Police Department from firing their service weapons for 22 months, has succumbed to Stage 4 Lung Cancer. He was 68 years old.
Chief Timoney wasn’t a miracle worker, nor a saint, but he was the rare police administrator who managed to visibly decrease police firearms discharges by an entire major city police department as crime levels dropped under his watch in Miami as well as during his earlier tenure in Philadelphia
Prior to his arrival in Miami in 2003, Miami police were notorious for shooting and killing unarmed black men, then planting gun on them, resulting in the conviction of four officers.
Timoney is credited for bringing down the city’s homicide rate, but drew fire for his handling of protests during the Republican National Convention in 2000.
“I’ve learned more from my mistakes in my career than I ever have from my successes,” said Timoney, “The successes they swell your head, and they cloud your thinking. The mistakes provide clarity, and so I had my fair share of mistakes. Suffice to say I learned from them.”
So maybe Chief Timoney had way too much clarity and didn’t always learn from them because the lawman’s knack for keeping beat cops in line did not extend to his major event management planning skills, nor his retirement under oddly murky circumstances as NBC Miami noted:
Timoney started his law enforcement career with the New York Police Department, where he spent 29 years and rose to the rank of First Deputy Commissioner. After spending four years as the Commissioner for the Philadelphia Police Department, Timoney spent a year in private security before being named the chief of the Miami Police Department in 2003.
During his time in South Florida, Timoney received praise at the start of his tenure for a reduction in the murder rate and the number of police involved shootings. There would be some controversy, including the use of force by officers during the Free Trade Area of the Americas summit and his use of a luxury SUV without cost from a local dealership.
In 2007, the Miami New Times named Timoney America’s Worst Cop because of his questionable ethics and disregard for civil liberties. The police union, which is never a credible source, also accused him of manipulating crime statistics to make it appear as if he’s doing a better job.
The Miami Model
He is also credited for creating the Miami Model, an aggressive, militarized style of policing used during protests that includes “large scale pre-emptive arrests, heavily armed sometimes unidentifiable law enforcement, the collection of intelligence from protesters, and the ’embedding’ of corporate media with the police.”
Now followed by police departments throughout the country, the tactic was first used during the infamous 2003 Free Trade Area of the Americas protests in Miami, a horror show of police abuse and aggression which turned the city into a war zone, resulting in hundreds of thousands of dollars in settlements. Be sure to watch the documentary below.
Armed with millions of dollars of new equipment and inflamed by weeks of warnings about anarchists out to destroy their city, police in Miami donned riot gear, assembled by the thousand, put the city on lockdown and unleashed an arsenal of crowd control weaponry on overwhelmingly peaceful gatherings.
Videos taken at the scene show protesters being beaten with wooden clubs, shocked with Taser guns, shot in the back with rubber bullets and beanbags, and pepper-sprayed in the face. Retirees were held handcuffed and refused water for hours. Medics and legal observers, arrested in large numbers, say they were targeted. A female journalist, arrested during a mass roundup, was made to strip in front of a male policeman. A woman’s entire breast turned purple-black after she was shot there, point-blank, with a rubber bullet.
Afterward, many observers said the same thing: “This is not America.” Civil libertarians, though, worry that — in an era when legitimate homeland security fears have begun to edge over into hysterical paranoia about “anarchists” — it might offer a glimpse of where America’s response to protest is headed.
In 2013, Timoney wrote a column for the New York Times arguing that training cops to abide by the Constitution in regards to stop-and-frisk was just too costly.
So he didn’t always learn from his mistakes either.
But Chief Timoney was the rare police commander who could admit mistakes, take ownership of his flaws and still manage to keep a thousand armed men from unleashing even a single shot for 22 months while patrolling communities designated as high-crime areas by local officers. Even if crowd control was one of his perennial mistakes.
It’s possible that Timoney’s transparency was his not secret method to successfully managing police gun violence.
Under Timoney’s successor, Miami Police Chief Miguel A. Exposito, violent crime rates skyrocketed while the department came under federal investigation for gunning down black men, many unarmed, at a stunning rate. But the new chief was more interested in making reality television pilots than curbing officers’ overuse of firearms.
Earlier this year, the Department of Justice imposed a monitor and consent decree upon the Miami Police Department for those shootings
Under Timoney, the Miami Police Department was renowned for keeping police gun violence in check – which contributed to the revitalization of core inner-city neighborhoods in Miami.
Although, Miami’s police still used excessive force during Chief Timoney’s tenure, their victims did tend to survive, such as PINAC News publisher and founder Carlos Miller, whose 2007 beating led to the founding of this news journal.
Two years later, Miller sat with Timoney on a panel about New Media at the University of Miami where he educated the chief and the audience that the First Amendment applies to everybody, not just corporate journalists embedded with police.
But Timoney announced his resignation from the Miami Police Department less than a month later after the swearing in of a new mayor who vowed to fire him.