CUTLER BAY, FLA. (WSVN) - Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez has announced he will be retiring after nearly three decades on the force.

In a statement released Friday, Perez said the retirement goes into effect on Jan. 12, 2020.

“I wanted to take this opportunity to sincerely thank you for the opportunity to serve this wonderful community for the last 29 1/2 years, with the last four years being highlighted as your police director,” he said in the statement,

Perez spoke about his surprise announcement with 7News on Friday afternoon.

“My family and I have been planning when my departure would be for quite some time,” he said.

When he was appointed in 2016 by Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez, Perez said he was intending to retire in 2020.

“I knew always it was going to be 2020,” he said.

Gimenez took the opportunity to praise the departing director’s work.

“He’s had a very illustrious career here,” he said.

Perez said he officially retired years ago and had been working under Florida’s Deferred Retirement Option Program, also known as DROP.

He said, after nearly 30 years with the department, he felt it was time to move on.

“The time was right now. I felt the beginning of the year, some time off to decompress a little bit, and then see what doors open up into the future,” he said.

Perez said his decision to retire has nothing to do with the deadly Dec. 5 shootout in Miramar between police officers from multiple agencies, including Miami-Dade Police, and two jewelry store robbers who, authorities said, had carjacked and taken hostage a UPS driver.

Some have criticized the department for how the incident was handled.

“Obviously, that was probably the worst tragedy that we’ve seen in a long time in our community, but that has nothing to do with it,” said Perez. “It’s just the timing of everything.”

Gimenez highlighted some of Perez’s accomplishments, including reducing school crime and implementing technology like ShotSpotter, that helped enhance officers’ work on the streets.

The mayor also commended Perez for successfully adding body-worn cameras and making sure schools throughout the county have a police presence after the Parkland school shooting.

“I’m certainly not happy. I’m going to miss him. He was a great director,” said Gimenez.

Even before Perez got the job, Gimenez said, he had noticed the officer’s passion several years ago when he fought for the department amid budget cuts and layoffs.

“Are you inspired? Because I’m not coming to you as Deputy Director. I’m coming to you as a citizen today,” Perez said to fellow officers at the time during a speech.

Gimenez said he is currently searching for a replacement who is equally energetic and can lead.

“I’m not looking outside this department. This department has an excellent reputation,” he said. “One of the best departments, if not the best police department in the country.”

Perez’s announcement comes as the agency prepares for a seismic change. Amendment 10, which was approved by Florida voters in 2018, stipulates that those few districts that do not elect a sheriff will have to by 2024.

Perez said the work will soon begin to transform the department from being led by a police director who is appointed to a sheriff who is elected.

“I’m extremely proud of what we have achieved together during my tenure as Director, and I assure you that we have been succession planning for some time,” he wrote in his statement. “I have full faith and confidence in the ability of Deputy Director Alfredo Ramirez and the Department’s executive command staff to lead the Miami-Dade Police Department going forward and into the future. I will miss you all.”

“The bonding that you see in the community is what “I’m going to miss a lot,” said Perez. “It’s been a great four-year run for me, and now it’s time to pass the baton to somebody else,” said Perez.

Gimenez said he already knows who is going to replace Perez and he plans to announce the successor before Perez retires.

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