Emergency Management Director Retires

Susan Askew
Susan Askew

Emergency Management Director Retires:

Agency getting a makeover

The Miami Beach Department of Emergency Management (DEM) is undergoing a makeover. In a memo to Commissioners, City Manager Jimmy Morales announced both the retirement of Director Charles “Chuck” Tear and changes within the Department, including transferring private security guards and goodwill ambassadors to the Miami Beach Police Department.
 
Morales named Chief Juan Mestas of the Miami Beach Fire Department as interim director. In his memo dated February 6, Morales wrote, “Chief Mestas has extensive experience with emergency management, including overseeing those functions in his role as an Assistant Chief at the City of Miami prior to joining our City. If you recall, last year Chief Mestas was part of a tactical team sent by South Florida to Houston to assist with the recovery from Hurricane Harvey.”
 
Morales indicated the Department will be restructuring. “As part of the transition, I am also using this opportunity to focus DEM on its core mission of planning for and coordinating the preparation, response and recovery from all nature of emergencies,” he wrote.
 
Noting the Public Safety Communications Unit (PSCU) – the 911 call takers and dispatchers – was transferred to the Fire Department last Fall, Morales said oversight of the City’s security guard program was being transferred to the Police Department along with the Goodwill Ambassadors.
 
The PSCU has had a rocky road. It was under the Police Department in 2013 when Morales became City Manager. Following what he called concerns about the performance of the unit combined with concerns regarding the leadership of the Police Department at the time, Morales transferred the PSCU to the Department of Emergency Management. After complaints from employees that the unit was understaffed, Morales tasked Fire Chief Virgil Fernandez with reviewing the emergency communications unit. When the review was complete, Morales moved the unit under the Fire Department noting Tear had stabilized it and made some improvements but, “There have been some performance issues raised in recent months, however, and I certainly want to make sure our first responders are getting the best support services possible.”
 
In his February memo regarding the additional changes, Morales wrote, “DEM will, of course, continue to provide support and assistance with special events and incidents as requested. But the primary function must be to make sure that this City is truly resilient in the face of emergencies, whether they be hurricanes, floods, pandemics or any other shock that we might face.  As a result, DEM will continue to report directly to my office, thereby emphasizing the importance of this role in our City.”
 
Meanwhile, the security guard program itself may undergo further transition. At this week’s Commission Finance and Citywide Projects Committee meeting, Police Chief Dan Oates noted recent dissatisfaction with the private security guards who patrol City Hall, the parking structures, and some areas of the City. He said a plan will be coming forward to transition the funds used for the guard contracts to expand the “very effective” Park Ranger program which is managed under the Parks Department.
 
 

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