The Village of Bal Harbour has a new Black police chief. Captain Raleigh Flowers, a 20-year veteran officer, was sworn in as the first Black police chief of the Bal Harbour Village Police Department, last Wednesday evening.
He inherits a department that had loss of high-level leaders and is the subject of a criminal investigation.
In the last two years, the department saw two of its police chiefs die due to health complications. Before that, the department was in the national spotlight due to a grand jury investigation, regarding undercover Bal Harbour police officers who laundered drug money and failed to make arrests.
The Brownsville native who joined Bal Harbour in 2015, described succeeding to police chief as bittersweet. “It was one of those lifelong dreams for a police officer,” Flowers said, though he wished the circumstances were different. In November 2016, former Chief Mark Overton died after never fully recovering from a heart attack he suffered in July of that year. Less than a year and a half later, Overton’s successor, succumbed to cancer. Chief Miguel De La Rosa died in January of this year. Flowers served as the interim chief of police following De La Rosa’s death.
For Flowers, the back-to-back tragedies impacted him deeply because he shared a very close bond with both Overton and De La Rosa.
The three of them worked together at the Hialeah Police Department, where Flowers began his career. Overton was Flowers’ police chief while in Hialeah. He described Overton as his mentor and confidant. De La Rosa and Flowers rose through the ranks together and forged a deep friendship. “It was a dark moment in the police department,” he said. “I had to disguise my inner feelings and put on my game face.”
Though both deaths were tragic and hard to accept, De La Rosa’s passing affected Flowers differently because of their close friendship, Flowers explained. “It really took a toll on me because he was my friend,” he said. “Overton was always the boss; but Mike was my friend.”
The grand jury investigation was based on events that occurred prior to Flowers’ arrival to Bar Harbour. The investigation focused on undercover police officers from both Bal Harbour and Glades County Sheriff's Office, who formed their own task force to investigate and infiltrate drug cartels. The officers used the illicit money to pay for lavish expenses but failed to make any arrests. It is still an open, ongoing FBI investigation, Flowers said. “It is something that stigmatized the agency. But we have since changed the image and direction of the agency,” Flowers said.
The reform was started by Overton, who began restructuring the command staff, a move that brought De La Rosa and Flowers into the department.
With the department reform efforts came a focus to foster better community relations, Flowers explained.
“Over the last three years, the officers have been more engaging with the residents,” he said. In addition, the officers have been involved with other communities outside of Bal Harbour, with toy and school supply drives.
Bal Harbour serves one of the most prestigious zip codes in the county. The small force of some 26 officers, two of which are women, is keen on diversity, Flowers said.
The Village of Bal Harbour has a population of around 8,000 residents. Close to 3,500 are permanent residents, but a large portion of the residents live in Latin America, Europe and the northern parts of the country, said Mayor Gabriel Grossman. “It is really great honor to have been able to swear in Captain Raleigh Flowers as the new police chief,” Grossman said about Flowers. “Raleigh has really stepped up to keep our police department cohesive and strong and keep our communities safe.”