North Miami Beach ‘beyond happy’ to celebrate its first Black woman police chief

The North Miami Beach Police Department made history last week by swearing in its first Black woman as chief of police.

Harvette S. Smith was promoted on Thursday in a swearing-in ceremony after serving the North Miami Beach community for the last 32 years.

Surrounded by friends and family, Smith spoke to an auditorium audience, pledging her commitment to serve her community as a North Miami Beach local.

“All of my roles led me here and I am passionate about being a part of the city,” she said.

Smith began as a clerk typist in 1990 and has grown within the police department. She matriculated from dispatcher to officer after graduating from the police academy in 1998. Since that point, Smith has thrown herself into working for the community.

“As a retired police sergeant, I’m beyond happy to see the first African-American chief of police at the City of North Miami Beach,” Commissioner Paule Villard told Miami’s Community Newspaper, adding that Smith will step into the role “with strength, transparency and great honor.”

Smith was first promoted earlier this year to interim chief of police after former chief Richard Rand retired in March. Rand served the North Miami Beach police department for 25 years when he was promoted to chief of police in February 2021. He had spent less than a year in the role when he suddenly presented the city with his letter of resignation in November. But North Miami Beach residents put up enough protest to have city manager Arther Sorey to intervene and compel Rand to stay on as chief.

“The outpouring of support of city manager Sorey, the mayor and commissioners, the media, and last but not least you, the community, has encouraged me to rescind my letter of retirement so that I may continue to proudly lead this incredible police department,” Rand said at the time.

Not soon after, Rand resigned once again in March without much explanation other than he was ready to begin the next chapter of his life. His official last day was July 5.

So, Smith now takes on a permanent role that won’t be easy. North Miami Beach, according to the neighborhoodscout, is not the safest community.  In the last two years, North Miami Beach has been faced with crime. As recently as April, a shooting occurred at a local Valero gas station. A couple months later, residents woke up to a shooting at the North Miami Beach public library one street away from the gas station.

While no stranger to violent crime, the North Miami Beach police department has spent the last five years trying to lower the city’s crime rate and create a safer community.  The city credits the decline in violent crime to the leadership of Rand, according to a news release from North Miami Beach. The release goes on to call the city “a safer place to work, play and live.”

Under his leadership, the police department received “Excelsior” status for the third year in a row from the Commission of Florida Accreditation and received their fourth in the few months with Smith as interim chief.

Smith received a standing ovation several times throughout the ceremony, proving that North Miami Beach is with her as much as she is with it.

Jazmine Santillana is a junior majoring in journalism. After her studies, she wishes to pursue a career in digital journalism.