Chief Cheryl Odom Cason begins retirement journey
By Derek Joy
It was a thing of beauty when Cheryl Odom Cason hosted her retirement party at the Ramada Inn in Hialeah.
The occasion was simple: Odom Cason officially began her journey into retirement after 32-years in law enforcement with the city of Opa locka Police Department.
“We’re celebrating not only a woman of public service, but a woman of faith,” said Rev. D. L. Powell, pastor New Shiloh M. B. Baptist Church in Liberty City, where Odom Cason is a long time faithful member.
A part of it all that enhanced the thing of beauty was that three of Odom Cason’s children and many of her 13 grandchildren were on hand to speak, perform, entertain and enjoy the accolades she received.
“I’m going to say to you, Chief Cason. You fought a good fight. You kept the faith and honored the badge,” said Opa locka Mayor Myra Taylor.
Said Major Emily Crawford: “We’ve been friends for 41 years. I got to the Opa locka Police Dept. in Oct. 1981, when I was right out of college and didn’t know anything. She was al-ready there. She took me under her wing. And we were the first female undercover narcotics officers.”
Now, it is time for that last step of riding into the retirement sunset where Odom Cason enjoyed the pomp and circumstance of her “Retirement Dinner and Celebration at the Hialeah Ramada Inn on May 25.
Odom Cason, a 1975 graduate of Miami Northwestern High School, was first hired by the Opa locka Police Department May 5, 1981. Cason rose through the ranks during her 31-plus years, winning an appointment as Chief Jan 1, 2010.
“At the time they were looking for minorities and women,” Odom Cason, 56, re-called. I was working at South Shore Hospital and going through a divorce. I saw this as an opportunity to go back to school and provide for my children.”
The journey has been an enduring one, which was only the third job – South Shore Hospital and Bell South – Odom Cason worked at in her adult life.
Interestingly enough, current Chief Jeffrey Key, who succeeded Odom Cason, credited her for encouraging him to pursue a career in law enforcement and being instrumental in his training and advancement.
“When I started in 1981 there were only four women on the department,” said Odom Cason, who cited diversity and a larger department with more officers on the street as some of her accomplishments as chief.
“The department increased to 56 officers during my tenure. There are more full time, part time and reserve officers. And there are 10 female officers. We also installed the CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch System).
“That system makes dispatching easier; calls get out faster to give a faster response time. It improved officer safety. And it facilitated my goal of making the department better and more respected in the state of Florida by FDLE and FBI.”
Officer safety became even more critical to Odom Cason after a former patrol partner, Efra Brown, was shot and killed with his own weapon by a suspect at a convenience store on June 3, 1986.
That was one of several bumps in the road for Odom Cason.
Another difficult twist in the road came in 1991 when she was fired for reportedly failing a drug test.
“Three other officers from the city of Miami and the city of Hialeah were fired for results at the same time from that same lab. They sent us to Mercy Hospital (now UM Hospital). The results were different. That’s why they stopped using that lab.
“I won my case in 1996, worked as a code enforcement officer for three years, got re-certified in law enforcement and was rehired in 1999. Then I was promoted to assistant chief in 2008 and chief in 2010.”
So, the interruption in service had been corrected with re-instatement and back pay, the promotions to assistant chief and chief, were forced to the back burner by the death of her second husband, Arthur Cason.
He battled pancreatic cancer for six years until he finally succumbed May 20, 2010. And there were her physical pains wrought by knee replacement surgery and a back injury sustained while on duty.
Now, Odom Cason can look back at how a 23-year old mother navigated the pitfalls associated with the dangers and heartaches encountered during a 32-year law enforcement career.
“When Efra was killed that motivated me to continue to fight for equality, both in rank and salary,” said Odom Cason. That is a highlight of my career, a devotion and commitment to making the department better.
“During my tenure crime in the infamous Triangle area decreased by 98-percent. That comes from commitment and being in the community. You can’t do it by yourself. You need the community. Law enforcement is making the community feel safe.”