After serving nearly 17 years as the Village of Key Biscayne Police Chief, helping put the island community atop many “Safest Cities” lists in the state, Charles Press announced Monday he is stepping down.
In a letter to new Village Manager Steve Williamson, Mayor Mike Davey and City Council members, Press wrote: “It is with much thought and emotion that I resign as Chief of Police for the Village of Key Biscayne, (effective July 2).”
In his letter, in which he listed many valuable accomplishments during his time on the force, he also said his round-the-clock hours put unnecessary stress on his family and took exception at “negative attitudes” toward he and his police force.
Press, who has served 46 years in law enforcement, led a 36-person staff for the approximate 13,000 residents.
“It’s a big loss for Key Biscayne,” said Mayor Davey, who has known Press for more than 15 years, when he first came on board to an elected post. “I was a little surprised, but I understand his reasoning, the toll on his family and all. But he put in his time and worked incredibly hard, and I respect his decision. I wish I could have talked him out of it.”
Lately, some in the community questioned Press’ commitment on the police force since he took on dual roles as Interim Village Manager during a nearly six-month process to hire Williamson from a group of 52 candidates. Earlier this year, Council member Luis Lauredo led a charge as to why some of the island’s laws were not being enforced.
Just recently, detectives from Press’ department arrested two Miami Beach teens in connection with a battery against an adult resident on Crandon Boulevard. Press, in a mission to quell juvenile delinquency, had the Village Green stadium lights left on longer on weekends and readjusted his staff’s hours and placement so more patrols could be visible.
During the first four months of this year, 12 juveniles had been arrested, many of those in cases of stolen and/or vandalized golf carts, a topic of many recent Council meetings.
“As I reflect on almost seventeen years of service to the Village of Key Biscayne, I think of the many accomplishments that our organization has enjoyed,” Press wrote in his resignation letter. “My first goal was to provide the department with Accreditation, which we succeeded in doing within my first year. Sixteen years later, we achieved an Excelsior Status, identifying us as the top one percent of accredited departments that have maintained the highest standards and best practices, without fail.”
He also mentioned saving Key Biscayne thousands of dollars in repairs and new purchases by instituting a Fleet Maintenance Agreement with the City of Miami Beach and also found cost-cutting ways by civilianizing the Property & Evidence Room, freeing up a sworn officer to patrol the community in the process. He was proud of his “strict budget,” one he says was maintained in the black even during crisis situations.
Press also mentioned he introduced the 12-hour shift for patrols, which “allowed me to reduce the number of Sergeants and add more officers to the community.”
Press pointed out in his letter that 98% of the current police department were not a part of his team when he arrived.
“At times I had to dismiss employees who did not ‘fit the mold or expectations of the residents of the Village of Key Biscayne,’ “ he wrote.
He also introduced body-worn cameras to his department to “ensure the highest level of accountability.”
In addition, he developed an Honor Guard, which brought recognition to the Village, and a Rapid Response Team, “preparing officers to respond in the event of a potentially catastrophic situation.”
There was no word if he will continue overseeing the Chief Press Foundation, or if the Sister City initiative he developed with Liberty City will remain intact.
Press has held several Building & Zoning, Public Works Director and most recently, as Interim Village Manager, and in these roles, Press helped quickly clean the island of debris after Hurricane Irma and completed many unfinished projects. He also successfully negotiated long-awaited employee contracts, he said, and even helped move the 530 Crandon park project forward after 10 years of delays.
“To provide the above, my family has at times suffered,” Press wrote, regarding being contacted for responses and answers to issues around the clock, “365 days of the year,” even while dealing with emotional issues such as a catastrophic injury to his daughter and the death of his parents 10 days apart.
“The current negative attitudes towards myself and my profession, although doing our very best, has taken its supreme toll,” he wrote.
Press, a graduate of Barry University, served a year as president of the Miami-Dade County Association of Chiefs of Police and spent more than 29 years as the Assistant Chief of Police for the Miami Beach Police Department, where in 1983 he was named Officer of the Year. In 2008, he was inducted into the Miami-Dade College Hall of Fame.
“... I wish our officers and civilians Godspeed with their future success. I also wish that residents and leadership of the Village move forward together, without contention, to really prove that the Key is truly an ‘Island Paradise.’ “
“He’s just an incredible person,” Mayor Davey said. “He’s always been committed, always been available. If I called him on a Saturday night, he’d be there. He was 100 percent committed to his job and to (our residents). That’s why we’re a special and safer community.”
We will continue to update the story as more details become available.