We have decades of history emboldening our success.
In 1963, a County Commissioner who was running for the Florida Senate made a public declaration that police officers should be paid the same as garbage collectors—and the Dade County Sheriff's Employee Association banded together to make sure he didn’t win the election. (He didn’t.) The Sheriff at the time denounced the Association’s involvement in political activities, and responded swiftly by transferring those officers to different units as punishment. Enlightened members knew they had to fight back on behalf of all policemen and women in Miami, and with that, the Dade County Police Benevolent Association (DCPBA) was born.
Under the leadership of its very first president, the Dade County Police Benevolent Association made it a point to stay active in Miami’s social, charitable and political scene, especially when it came to public elections. Keeping the rights and benefits of its members in mind, the newly-formed organization screened every candidate running for office and made public endorsements in favor of those they supported. At first, no one took them seriously; but as word spread and candidates began seeing the significance of the Dade County Police Benevolent Association to various police groups and neighborhoods, they actively sought their support. To this day, local, state and national politicians vie for a PBA endorsement, as they know it weighs heavily.
It was 1969 when the PBA faced its first official battle—a new County Manager pledged to grant collective bargaining rights to all county employees except for law enforcement officers. Adding insult to injury, the Public Safety Director he brought onboard wanted to dismantle the PBA because of their prior involvement in local politics. After the Director reduced the rank of the president and started transferring other officers out of their respective positions, the Dade County Police Benevolent Association fought back, sued the County Manager for their bargaining rights… and won.
With that newfound power, the Dade County Police Benevolent Association successfully obtained its first bargaining unit On October 1, 1971. For the first time in Florida’s history, law enforcement officers, corrections officers and support personnel had a written contract that spelled out their wages, fringe benefits and terms and conditions of employment. Not too long after, sergeants wanted in, too—voting 205 to 4 in favor of joining the Dade County Police Benevolent Association, even when Miami-Dade County leadership was actively against it.
At the government level, the PBA was a force to be reckoned with. In 1963, it sponsored a bill to the Florida Legislature that granted a $20,000 death benefit to the family of any police officer who was killed in the line of duty. (This idea was later supported by Congress and became law.) It lobbied for the first disability retirement and witness fees, ensuring that disabled police officers received weekly financial payouts and officers who had to appear in court as a witness were paid a small fee for their time. It was because of the organization’s lobbying and support that many bills were passed by local, state and national governments—like the Police Officers Bill of Rights, the Collective Bargaining Law and the 3% per year Special Risk Retirement, which all became law in 1974. With that much success, police associations from throughout Florida visited the PBA to learn about their negotiations process. From there, the Florida Police Benevolent Association formed as an overarching police union in 1976.
When it first launched in 1963, the Dade County Police Benevolent Association was just a 100-member organization with only one employee. Today, it has over 6,500 members, from Miami-Dade County all the way to Key West, and is governed by a seven-member Executive Board, 11 staff members, six attorneys and a Board of Directors. In 2019, the organization acknowledged that its membership extended beyond its named boundary and chose to rename itself as the South Florida Police Benevolent Association.
As for the next chapter, that remains to be seen. The South Florida Police Benevolent Association remains active in various charitable, social and political initiatives on the local, state and national level, and it’s just getting started.
We're counting on you, our members, to help us write our story.