Former Miami-Dade Police Director Robert Parker, who retired in 2009 after rising through the ranks to become the first African American in the department’s top job, was found dead with a gunshot wound to his head next to a canal near his northwest Miami-Dade home Wednesday night.
Police are investigating the death at Parker’s home on the 700 block of South Biscayne River Drive as a possible suicide.
“The Miami-Dade Police Department is sad to announce that it is investigating the death of former MDPD director Robert Parker,” the department said in a statement late Wednesday night. “The investigation is ongoing and in its preliminary stages.”
According to a law enforcement source, Parker spent the day with family and on Wednesday evening, was seen walking back and forth, looking troubled, near a canal across the street from his house. That’s where his body was found. He is believed to have died from a single gunshot wound to the head. He was 62.
“Director Parker dedicated his life to the safety of Miami-Dade County,” Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez said in a statement issued Thursday morning. “…This is a painful time for Miami-Dade Police Officers, all County employees and our community. I ask all residents to keep Director Parker and his family in their thoughts and prayers.”
Miami-Dade police early Thursday had Northwest Seventh Avenue at 151st Street blocked off in both directions, with a cadre of police cars visible several hundreds yards past a road block.
Parker was named police director in 2004 by then-County Mayor Carlos Alvarez, who preceded him as the top cop in the county. Parker retired in 2009, shortly after Alvarez announced a series of steep pay cuts for most non-union employees.
Parker joined the force in 1976 and quickly worked his way up the ranks. He spent 33 years in the eighth largest police department in the nation, and as director oversaw more than 4,500 sworn and civil employees.
During his tenure with Miami-Dade police, Parker served as assistant director of police services, division chief for north operations, and worked in the Special Investigations Unit. He also served as a major and a commander in charge of economic crimes.
While director, he was appointed by the governor to co-chair the Southeast Regional Domestic Security Task Force. He was also elected president of the Dade County Chiefs of Police.
An Army veteran, Parker received a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Barry University and a master’s degree at Nova Southeastern University.
Parker once said his toughest days as a cop were during the 1980 race riots sparked by the beating death of black motorcyclist Arthur McDuffie.
“We had never seen that in this community. It has to be a little bit like the experience of people in Vietnam — fighting for this country, then coming back to be less than appreciated.”