HomeTop StoriesNew Miami Beach chief discusses previous arrest after dispute with wife

New Miami Beach chief discusses previous arrest after dispute with wife

Wayne Jones, the new Miami Beach police chief, spent nearly three weeks in jail two decades ago and did not return to the department for nearly a year, following a domestic incident with his wife that left him charged with battery and kidnapping.

Although the charges were dropped 10 months later after Jones agreed to a pre-trial diversionary program, the man expected to be sworn in within two weeks, as the city’s police chief said the incident – in which Jones allegedly left his home estranged wife entered without permission and at one point grabbed her wrist during a dispute over a spare key – leaving him emotionally scarred.

“I have PTSD about it all the time,” Jones told the Miami Herald in an interview. “Up to that point I had done everything I could not to become a statistic. Honestly, I never thought I’d be charged with a crime.

Jones, 54, was a 32-year-old patrol officer at the time.

With chief Richard Clements retiring, Jones, a 27-year veteran of the department, will become the first black chief in Miami Beach’s 108-year history on Sept. 1.

He won the unanimous support of the city’s seven elected officials last month after a recommendation from city manager Alina Hudak, who said she is aware of Jones’ history.

“The decision to promote Deputy Chief Jones to Chief was made after a thoughtful review of his personnel file in its entirety, extensive interviews with his colleagues, and consideration of the overwhelmingly positive contributions he has made to the Miami Beach Police Department and law enforcement during have been in uniform for 27 years,” Hudak said in a statement.

Mayor Dan Gelber said Hudak informed him of the incident, which did not affect his support.

“I have complete confidence in Chief Jones,” said Gelber. “He has been promoted several times and each time has proven his willingness to serve our city.”

Jones’ ex-wife, Whitney Houston (no relation to the late singer), who was reached by phone, said that after the dispute and their divorce later in 2001, she and Jones became close friends and remain on good terms. Jones was financially supportive after Houston gave birth to a daughter and helped enroll at a daycare center, she said.

“Our relationship, even after our divorce, remained loving and supportive,” said Houston. “I feel like he hasn’t redeemed himself.”

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The 2001 incident, Houston added, was a “one-off” that “doesn’t fit our character.”

The incident

On June 26, 2001, Jones finished an overnight police shift and realized he had left his keys at home.

Jones asked Houston if he could come to her Coconut Grove home to pick up a spare key, according to an internal affairs report reviewed by the Herald. Houston said he couldn’t come over because she was “busy,” Jones told investigators.

At around 1:30 a.m., Jones drove his flagged police car to the Houston home. When she wouldn’t let him through a security gate, Jones jumped a security fence and climbed to a second-floor balcony, the report said, then opened a sliding glass door to enter.

Jones found his wife inside with a man she was dating, who left the house, according to the report. During an ensuing argument, Jones reportedly wouldn’t let Houston leave and at one point tried to pull her off a couch while on top of the spare key, causing “slight bruises” to her wrist.

Jones said Houston grabbed a “statuette” during the dispute and that he took it from her hand, fearing she would hit him with it.

Houston eventually called the police after driving to a friend’s house, the report said. Miami police initially did not respond and did not arrest Jones, but he was told later that day that criminal charges would be filed. He turned himself in to the Miami Police Department the same day.

Jones was charged with burglary of an occupied house with battery and kidnapping, two felonies and a felony, according to the internal affairs report and online court records.

Jones said he spent about 20 days in jail when the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office tried to block his release. He said he was “completely shocked” by the criminal charges and “didn’t feel [he] done something wrong.” Still, he said, he now regrets how he handled it.

“In hindsight I wish I had done it differently,” said Jones. “I regret going home that night.”

Jones said the incident and its aftermath were “the hardest and most painful thing I’ve experienced in my entire life”.

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He was suspended indefinitely without pay while the charges were pending, and returned to work nearly a year later when prosecutors dropped the charges. Houston said she did not want to pursue the case, the records show, and Jones agreed to take anger management classes.

An internal investigation continued and in late 2002 it was concluded that Jones was guilty of “actions amounting to disgraceful conduct while on or off duty”. That led to an additional four-week unpaid suspension, which Jones served in January 2003.

In an interview on Thursday, Jones appeared to contradict parts of a 2002 affidavit he gave to internal affairs investigators after the incident. He denied that Houston told him not to come to her house, that he jumped a security fence, and that he grabbed Houston’s wrist as she sat on the couch.

On Friday, after reviewing the internal affairs report, Jones said he may have been mistaken about the details.

“It’s something I’m working really hard to forget about,” he said.

Jones entered into a “last chance” deal with the City of Miami Beach in December 2002, which meant he risked being fired if he committed other offenses. He has not been suspended since then, department records show.

Jones had faced two brief suspensions, one day and five days respectively, shortly after beginning his Miami Beach career in 1996, for failing to appear in court in his capacity as an officer.

The 2001 incident made Jones more sensitive to how police should handle domestic incidents, he said, something he plans to address through training with police officers.

“I’m more empathetic now,” Jones said, adding that it was important “to get more facts and details.”

‘Memorable’ appointment

City Commissioner Ricky Arriola told the Herald that he had known about the 2001 incident for years after hearing about it from other police officers. He said it’s none of his business and called Jones a “standup guy.”

“I’m not at all concerned that he’s going to do great work for our community,” Arriola said.

Bobby Hernandez, president of the Miami Beach Fraternal Order of Police, worked as Jones’s boss in the agency’s public information office shortly after his suspension. He called Jones’s arrest “an unfortunate personal matter that he has moved on from,” and said the chief-in-waiting has had an “exemplary career” since then.

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“He’s a great leader. He’s great to work with and he’s great to work for,” Hernandez said. to make.”

Hudak announced Jones’ nomination last month after an interview process limited to internal candidates. Jones, the division’s second-in-command, was widely regarded as a front-runner.

Jones had risen from patrol officer to detective, sergeant, lieutenant, captain and major before being sworn in as deputy chief in 2019 on the same day Clements became the department’s top cop.

At the July 26 committee meeting that confirmed Jones’ nomination, Gelber, the mayor, called it a “memorable moment.”

“I feel very comfortable that it’s the right person at the right time,” he said.

Jones acknowledged the historic nature of his nomination at the rally, saying that as a young black man he was not comfortable visiting Miami Beach due to racism in the city.

“When I became a police officer in Miami Beach, my dad cried,” he said. “He cried because of the history of how black people were treated in this city.”

Jones’s appointment comes at a time when there is a high focus on crime among Miami Beach residents, particularly South Beach, even though crime has generally fallen in the city. Public safety has been cited as one of the top priorities for several candidates running for mayor in November, when Gelber has a limited term in office.

The move also follows years of close scrutiny into police treatment of black visitors.

In 2021, five Miami Beach officers were arrested for using excessive force against a handcuffed black man and for beating a black bystander who was recording the incident. The city was also criticized for issuing an ordinance that disproportionately targeted black visitors videotaping police. That law was introduced as part of a series of crackdowns on crime following an unruly 2021 spring break.

Police and city leaders have continued to struggle with how to keep people safe and how to manage large crowds of young, mostly black visitors during spring break in March after a pair of fatal shootings this year on Ocean Drive.

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