Fla. Legislature passes bill letting new Miami-Dade sheriff take over county police in 2025
House Bill 1595 allows for a gradual shift in what the public will see from county law enforcement once the new sheriff takes office
By Douglas Hanks
MIAMI — Miami-Dade County’s local government would lose its police department to a newly elected sheriff under a bill that passed the Florida Legislature on Monday despite objections by Mayor Daniella Levine Cava.
Backed by the Florida Sheriffs Association, the legislation would kill the Levine Cava plan backed by the county commission to retain most of the police department under the mayor’s authority after a sheriff takes office in 2025 as mandated by a recent amendment to the Florida Constitution.
While Levine Cava wanted to surrender limited county policing duties to the sheriff, the bill heading to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature requires Miami-Dade to hand over its entire police department.
Miami-Dade’s police union backed the legislation that bars the county from retaining police officers once the sheriff takes office in January 2025. Steadman Stahl, president of the local Police Benevolent Association union, said a powerful sheriff assures voters can make a clear choice when it comes to public safety.
“You will have a sheriff who will be responsible for crime, whether it’s good or bad,” said Steadman Stahl, president of the local Police Benevolent Association union. “If it’s not working out, the voters will remove them.”
Miami-Dade is the only county in Florida where the mayor also holds the powers of sheriff, an arrangement forced to end after voters statewide approved a constitutional amendment in 2018 requiring independent sheriffs.
Backers of Miami-Dade retaining a police force argued the county should be allowed to have officers assigned to areas outside of city limits that would operate independently from the sheriff. Municipalities can maintain their own police forces under Florida law, while the sheriff has countywide jurisdiction.
The Florida Sheriffs Association sued, saying state law gives a sheriff exclusive policing authority in a county’s unincorporated areas outside of municipal limits. The legislation that passed the Senate on Monday clarifies the law in favor of the sheriffs.
The legislation (House Bill 1595) allows for a gradual shift in what the public will see from county law enforcement once the new sheriff takes office in January 2025. The bill allows a three-year transition to shift MDPD squad cars to the sheriff motif, including deputy badges with stars and a color scheme dominated by dark green.
Three municipalities that use county police for municipal services — Cutler Bay, Miami Lakes and Palmetto Bay — would have their contracts taken over by the sheriff’s office under the legislation. The bill’s sponsor said the legislation is the most logical result from the passage of the amendment requiring an elected sheriff.
“This is an implementation of the will of the voters,” said Rep. Juan Fernandez-Barquin, a Republican who represents West Kendall. “This is very simple and not complicated. It’s one police department.”
The bill’s passage came the same day that Miami-Dade’s current police director, Freddy Ramirez, filed to run in the Democratic primary for sheriff in 2024. Though allied with his boss and fellow Democrat, Levine Cava, Ramirez said he supports the legislation letting the sheriff take command of the entire Miami-Dade police force.
“We have to make sure there is continuity with the Miami-Dade Police Department,” he said in an interview. “And that the transition is seamless. So nobody is left behind.”