Capt. Harvette Smith Makes History as Florida City’s First Black Chief

A South Florida woman has been appointed to lead a local police department, becoming the first Black chief in the city’s 96-year history.

Capt. Harvette Smith was appointed the interim chief of the North Miami Beach Police Department on March 4, after starting in the agency 32 years ago as a typist. Smith is also breaking ground as the first Black woman to lead North Miami Beach Police.

Chief Harvette Smith is the first Black and first Black female police chief of the North Miami Beach Police Department.

“Chief Smith makes groundbreaking history as she becomes not only the first African-American to lead the NMBPD, but also the first African-American woman to do so,” the department announced in a Facebook post. “This historic moment is a great month for this to occur, especially since March is Women’s History Month.”

North Miami Beach is a city of 43,676 residents in Miami-Dade County, established in 1926. About 45 percent of the population is white, 42 percent is Black and 38 percent of the residents are Hispanic. As the police chief, Smith oversees more than 165 law enforcement officers and support professionals.

After working as a typist in the department, Smith became a dispatcher, where she also quickly rose into a leadership role. Five years later, Smith joined the police academy, graduating in 1998.

After several years as a patrol officer, Smith was promoted to the North Miami Beach Accreditation Unit, where she helped the department become the first nationally accredited police department in the county. She is regarded with high esteem by her colleagues because of her work in the unit. Other law enforcement agencies often would call on Smith to assist with mock assessments, North Miami Beach Police said.

In February 2018, she was promoted to sergeant and was elevated to captain in January 2021. Smith now replaces former Chief Richard Rand, who announced his retirement in early March.

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