Sgt. Paul Lupien
Miami Beach (FL) Police Department

Safety first: Miami Beach Police Sgt. Paul Lupien stands next to a S.A.F.E. (Self-Defense Awareness and Familiarization Exchange) poster.

Bad weather, the classic police TV show Adam-12 and a friendly neighborhood police officer all played a role in Paul Lupien's career choice.

Lupien is a 21-year veteran at the Miami Beach Police Department, where he is currently the supervisor of the Crime Prevention Unit. He is also a member of the department's SWAT team.

Lupien is responsible for the implementation and the operation of the department's "Citizen's Police Academy" program, a free program that educates the public about different aspects of law enforcement. Lupien also introduced the S.A.F.E. (Self-Defense Awareness and Familiarization Exchange) program, making the Miami Beach Police Department the first law enforcement agency in the nation to offer this program to its community. S.A.F.E. is a two-hour women's self-defense program designed to enhance a woman's level of awareness and provide her with options for her own self-defense. Since its inception early 2000, Lupien has trained more than 300 women who either live or work in Miami Beach.

PSJ: What compelled you to become a police officer? Was law enforcement your first career choice?
PL:
Two things. I remember going to elementary school and there was always a policeman there that would cross us. We only knew him by Big Jim. I always remember looking up and see this mountain of a man in a police uniform. Of course the gun is very prominent and the revolver and all the bullets on the gun belt. He'd shake all the kids hands as we go by. I'd make sure I'd shake his hand every day. I grew up having a lot of respect and admiration for police officers.

Also I spent a lot of time with my grandfather and we'd watch Adam-12 all the time. Officer Reed and Officer Malloy. I know my grandfather had a lot of respect for law enforcement and I thought it would make him proud for me to be a police officer.

You grew up in a small town in Massachusetts. How did you end up here in Miami Beach?
I grew up in Lowell, Massachusetts. I was doing roofing at the time, graduated from high school and going to night school at the University of Lowell. We had a blizzard in 1978. It was March. I thought, "There has to be something better than roofing in the middle of a snowstorm. Law enforcement. My chosen career. Effective now." I had an old Camero. I just loaded it up with all my stuff and drove it to Florida. My dad was living here. Got here about 2 in the morning and by 7 a.m. I had a first job at Gulfstream Racetrack cleaning up the aisles, wiping down the seats.

How did end up as an officer for the Miami Beach PD? I was taking karate at this one place in Hollywood (FL). We did a lot of sparring. I kept getting paired with this same guy. We were sitting down one day after class and we're talking and I only knew him by Pete. He asked me, "You are a young guy, what are you planning on doing?" I told him, "I want to be a police officer. I've been applying to all these police departments and that's what I want to do." He said, "Really? I'm a police officer. I work in Miami Beach. We're giving a test. Why don't you come down and take the test?"

Ok, he gave me the address to go sign up at City Hall. I came down here and took the test. I think we had 600 applicants. I ended up finishing like 52. I went through the process, the physical, background, and the last stage you had to do is come in for an interview with the chief before you were officially hired. So I show up and I go to the chief's office. I'm sitting in a chair in front of his desk and I'm waiting and I'm waiting. And in walks Pete. He was in plain clothes and he sits down and said, "Hey Paul, how are you doing?"

I said, "Maybe you shouldn't be sitting there. The chief should be here any time soon."

He said, "I am the chief. You're hired."

He never told me that at the time that I knew him that he was the assistant chief and he had just been made chief.

I've been with Miami Beach PD 21 years. The headline in the local section of the newspaper was: "New Beach Officers are Young, One Isn't Old Enough to Buy His Own Gun."

You had to be 21 to buy your own gun and I was 20. The article did clarify that the department distributed the handguns.

(Editor's note: The ' Pete' referred to by Lupien is the late Miami Beach Police Chief Pete Corso.)

Who are your heroes?
My grandfather. Hardworking. Honest. If he says he's going to do something, it was done. His word was as good as any written documents. He just displayed all the ideals that anyone could possibly embrace. He was a roofer by trade. Taught me the trade. He's just a hard-working man who worked every day of his life. In his late 70s, he was climbing roofs and working. He showed up at every one of my baseball games. He just taught me all the important things in life.

When people talk about Paul Lupien, what do you hope they are saying about you?
That's a good question. Hopefully it's something positive. Hopefully, even if I wasn't a close friend, that something I did benefited their life. Most important thing I hope they say is that I'm a good father.