Fort Lauderdale casting another net for new police chief

Susannah Bryan, South Florida Sun Sentinel
·3 min read

The search for a new police chief in Fort Lauderdale hasn’t turned up enough good candidates, so City Manager Chris Lagerbloom plans to try again.

Lagerbloom, charged with hiring the city’s new top cop, also wants to name a new interim chief to level the playing field.

That means Karen Dietrich’s days as interim chief are numbered. Dietrich, a veteran Fort Lauderdale cop who came up through the ranks, has applied for the permanent job.

Lagerbloom says some potential candidates are not applying out of respect for Dietrich.

Lagerbloom now has a new plan: appoint a new interim chief from outside the department who is not interested in the job.

That appointment will likely happen in the next couple weeks, Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis said Monday.

“The first round of applications did not measure up to the expectations of the city manager,” Trantalis said. “I think this gives the city manager more breathing room to find someone suitable to lead the department. I want them to be competent and experienced and open minded and sensitive to the diversity of our community.”

The department attracted more than 80 applicants after launching a nationwide search last summer, Lagerbloom said.

The job pays between $116,047 and $197,300 a year.

According to the job posting, the ideal candidate will be interpersonal and culturally sensitive; ethical and of high integrity; a supporter, coach and mentor; and a diplomatic, prudent and highly effective conflict manager.

The department’s rank and file are eager to see a new leader named, said Detective Brandon Diaz, police union president.

“They’re ready for this process to be complete,” Diaz said.

That sense of urgency is not lost on Lagerbloom, who met with the union last week to give them an update on the search. He followed up with an email.

“Unfortunately, the current recruitment process did not produce a finalist list that contained enough candidates to continue moving it forward,” Lagerbloom wrote. “During the search, we learned that there might be several additional candidates who were interested in the position but chose not to apply out of respect for the interim chief. While I appreciate that respect, I strongly feel the playing field must be level for all candidates.”

Dietrich has been overseeing the agency’s 530 sworn officers and 179 civilians since July 9, when Lagerbloom demoted Rick Maglione from chief to major.

Lagerbloom has not said just what prompted the move, but Maglione posted a public statement on July 4 defending the actions his officers took during a May 31 protest over the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Fort Lauderdale police fired tear gas and rubber bullets during the protest, exacerbating to a chaotic and violent scene. Police say protesters started it all when they threw rocks, bricks and fireworks.

Vice Mayor Steve Glassman later described the entire scene as a “horror show,” saying it was hard to watch the police body camera footage recorded that day.

Glassman says he’s glad to see the city manager is not in a rush to name a new chief.

“The city manager is taking his time,” Glassman said. “I would rather see him take the time and do it right. I don’t see the delay as something negative. I see it as him taking the time to make sure the right person gets hired. It’s too important.”

Susannah Bryan can be reached at sbryan@sunsentinel.com or 954-356-4554 or on Twitter @Susannah_Bryan