Antonio Brooklen was officially sworn in on Monday as Miami Gardens’ police chief, following his recent appointment by city manager Cameron.
Brooklen, 39, has been serving as the city’s acting police chief since February, stepping in to fill the void left when former police chief Stephen Johnson was dismissed after his arrest in a prostitution sting.
The new chief has over 7 years with the Miami Gardens Police Department, joining since it opened in 2007. Brooklen also served in the Miami-Dade police department where his career began as a Public Service Aide in 1994, at age 18.
Residents of Miami Garden say they are pleased about Brooklen’s confirmation.
“In these past few months he has handled the department well and has succeed in building rapport between the residents and the police,” said Macie Ricketts, a business owner in Miami Gardens.
“Things have been steady, and crime has declined somewhat,” said Leo Moses, another resident. “He’s from the city, so I hope succeeds as police chief. It seems each time we have a new chief in this city, something bad happens.”
Prior to Johnson, Matthew Boyd had a relatively short tenure as city police chief, and was removed amid criticism of unfair tactics to apprehend city youth and other residents in the city, whose population is overwhelmingly African- and Caribbean-American.
When Brooklen took over the reigns, there was some tension between the police and residents following the shooting death of Lovell Hall. Hall, who had a history of mental illness, was shot by police after being summoned by his mother for help to constrain him. However, when Hall attacked officers with a broomstick, he was shot.
Self-described community leader Lucille Johnson said under Brooklen’s leadership “much of the tension that existed back then with the police and the residents have calmed.”
Benson said the major factor in confirming Brooklen was his long tenure with the department, which made him “familiar with the profile and characteristics of the city, and his interaction with the community.”
Brooklen who graduated from Lynn University with a Bachelors in criminal justice/police science in 1996, and born and raised in Miami Gardens, said his primary objectives is to “create trust between the police and residents, and run a department that is totally transparent.”
He said there were too many police departments across the country that maintain distance from the community.
“I want the police department to build bridges with, not create gaps in Miami Gardens,” said Brooklen.
The city has grown significantly since it began operations in 2007, from a department of just over 100 sworn officers to over two-hundred with plans to hire new officers soon.