Jeffrey Key begins job as Opa locka police chief
Police Chief Jeffrey Key (l) with Commissioner Luis Santiago.
By Derek Joy
He is back where his law enforcement career began in 1989 – the city of Opa-locka.
Jeffrey Key’s first day as the city of Opa-locka Police Chief started with a briefing hosted by the Walking One Stop.
The briefing was attended by representatives of several government and private agencies and was followed by a walk through the city’s largest apartment complex – 22nd Avenue Apartments.
“This is my first day on the job,” said Key, 52, “Like they say my first rodeo, I’m glad to be back. I’m excited. My door is always open to you. We’re here for you. When you have things like this, the first thing to address is the quality of life for the citizens and residents.”
Wayne Rawlins, who heads the Walking One Stop Program, organized the briefing before Key was selected to replace Chief Cheryl Cason, who retired after 32 years in the department, the last three years as chief.
“We didn’t plan it this way,” said Rawlins. “This briefing was planned before Chief Cason retired. It just worked out that the briefing was on the first day Chief Key was on the job.
“The concept is to bring a social and economic service center to the people. Instead of them having to go downtown for services, we bring the services to the people. We provide assistance to people who have had recent and persistent incidents of violence.”
With such groups as the Miami Dade State Attorney, Community Action Agency and other groups, along with elected officials and representatives of elected officials, the chances of success in reducing violence and crime is reduced by 40-percent,” Rawlins said.
“We’re here in support for you,” said Rodney Harris, who represented the Juvenile Justice Center and the city of Miami Gardens, where he is a City Councilman. “Miami Gardens is your neighbor. We have some of the same problems. We’ll partner with you to make these kids’ lives better.”
Key worked as an Opa-locka Police Officer for three years before signing on with the city of North Miami in 1992. He rose to the rank of commander and retired last month.
The job of police chief brings him back to where he started.
“I started in Opa-locka as a dispatcher,” said Key, when asked why he chose law enforcement as a career. “Chief Cason was instrumental in my becoming a police officer. She was my FTO (Field Training Officer) when I was hired as an officer.”
When asked whether or not his father-in-law, the late Rev. Dr. Robert Ingram, influenced his decision, Key was reflective and to the point.
“That was a motivator,” said Key. “He grew up in a single parent home in Overtown. I grew up in a single parent home in Liberty City. Seeing how he brought success out of that motivated me to bring success out of my situation.”
Now, a different set of challenges loom at hand to build a successful tenure as Opa- locka Police Chief.
Between talking to residents of the 22nd Avenue Apartment Complex, and participants of the walk through, Key addressed his priorities.
“First of all, I’m not a politician. I’m the police chief. My number one priority is to bring solid structure and stability to the department. And for the citizens, I want to reduce crime and improve the quality of life. We’re here to accommodate their needs.”
“No. It’s not going to be an easy task. But I’m task oriented. So, I’ll surround myself with task oriented people, motivate people, make tough decisions and provide leadership.”
“One thing you have to remember. You can’t put a donkey to run in the Kentucky Derby. I strongly believe in placing people in their strengths. I want my performance to speak for me. My strength is in my ability to communicate. Accountability starts at the top.”
Key extended that account-ability to the media, with a special emphasis on the mainstream media.
“I want them to come out with some positive things just like they write about the negatives. If you beat up on me for the negatives, then come with the positive things that we do,” said Key, a member of Mount Zion A.M.E. Church, who added: “I’m here for the right reasons. From a spiritual stand-point, God sent me here.”