Report: Oates named Miami Beach Police Chief

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Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates addresses the media after the Aurora Theater shooting in July 2012.

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AURORA, Colo. — Dan Oates has been approved as the new Chief of Police with the Miami Beach Police Department.

WSVN-TV in Miami reported Oats was approved by a council there Wednesday afternoon.

When Oates became the Aurora police chief, he was tasked with cleaning up a police force before, and it appears he’s about to be asked to do it again.

“It’s going to be a challenge, but it’s going to be fun,” Oates said after being selected by the Miami Beach Commission.

Earlier this month, Aurora officials confirmed Oates would be stepping down as the city’s police chief in order to accept a new position.

The 34-year cop was reportedly identified as the top candidate out of a pool of about a dozen candidates by a the Miami Beach executive search team less than three weeks after the city’s former police chief, Raymond Martinez, tendered his own resignation.

Many who have work with Oates say it’s not hard to figure out what makes the 59-year-old qualified.

“His work ethic is unbelievable,” Charlie Richardson, a former Aurora city attorney, told the Denver Post. “It seemed like he worked 25 hours a day.”

Oates’ eight-year tenure in Aurora began with a charge to shore up a department that had just demoted its former police chief in the midst of criticism that Brent J. Brents could have been arrested before he committed a string of violent sex crimes. It ended with public praise from the President of the United States.

Those kind words were directed at Oates after the Aurora theater tragedy, the handling of which may very well come to define his legacy as a police officer. Despite the fact that 12 were killed and nearly 60 more injured, President Barack Obama insisted the chaotic situation could have been much worse had Oates not handled things “by the book, with great courage and great determination.”

Not only were Oates’ officers lauded for responding to the scene three minutes after the rampage began, they were commended for going above and beyond the call to account for late-arriving emergency crews, saving the lives of many critically injured movie goers by ferrying them to nearby hospitals in police cruisers.

Oates did his best to hold back tears at the ensuing press conference when describing his team’s efforts.

“We train and we train and we train for active shooter situations,” he  said. “It’s a legacy of Columbine and other shooter incidents, and as a police chief I never thought in my mind that I would really be coping with that or my cops would. They did the other night. And they did an incredible job.”

But Oates’ eight years at the head of the Aurora Police Department haven’t been free of criticism, either.

In 2011, Aurora paid a $215,000 settlement with the victim of an officer-involved shooting — one of eight during the year. In June of last year, it was revealed that the Aurora Police Department had improperly destroyed DNA evidence involved in 48 sexual assault cases.

But even when his department has been mired in mistakes, Oates has been lauded for his transparency.

After the string of officer-involved shootings, Oates insisted that additional cameras be installed in patrol cars and ordered new training methods for officers. His face was the one plastered on the news when the story about the destroyed DNA evidence broke, acknowledging his department “had a system breakdown.”

Given his background in journalism — Oates once covered cops and courts for the Atlantic City Press — and in law — he graduate from New York Law School and is licensed to practice in Colorado, New York and New Jersey — his affinity for transparency seems logical. But his insistence on holding his staff publicly accountable hasn’t always made him popular.

And that has never been high on Oates’ list of concerns — at least not in the mind of Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan.

“He doesn’t always worry about making friends,” Hogan told the Post. “He worries about what needs to be done and how it needs to be done.”

It seems that particular trait may have landed Oates high on Miami Beach City Manager Jimmy Morales’ list when searching for his city’s new police chief.

“That was a major factor, having someone who’s going to come in as a change agent, not here to win, necessarily, a popularity contest, but to try and make this the best department it can be,” Morales told the Miami Herald.

Considering his background as a former New York City police commander, it also seems that an opportunity in a major metropolis like Miami Beach might be right up Oates’ alley. In fact, when he left Ann Arbor, Mich. to take over as police chief in Aurora, Oates said he was seeking out a chance to work in a big-city police department.

It seems he’ll get all that and more in Miami Beach.

If and when his appointment is official, Oates will become the fourth new chief to head up a department that has been steeped in controversy and turnover since 2011.

Political differences with the newly elected city officials led to the resignation of the city’s most recent chief. That change in government came after a round of highly publicized and widespread arrests of city employees on corruptions charges.

Two other police chiefs left the job amid controversy about police misconduct and brutality, officers partying on the job and 911 call takers sleeping on the job.

Oates is yet to make any public comments about the new challenges he might face in his new position. Those are expected to come at a Miami Beach commissioners meeting scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. EST on Wednesday.

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