Immediately after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Orlando police openly toted submachine guns at Orlando International Airport. The image horrified tourist-conscious airport officials. Then-Capt. Val Demings didn’t care, says the Orlando Sentinel. “The citizens want to see people in uniform and feel secure wherever they are.” It was a take-charge attitude from the 23-year veteran and deputy police chief — who has overseen much of the city’s violent-crime initiative during the past two years — tha led Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer to tap Demings as the city’s first female police chief.
She follows in the footsteps of a spouse, former Orlando police Chief Jerry Demings, who retired in 2002 to become Orange County’s public-safety director. Jerry Demings recently announced that he was running for Orange County sheriff. Current Orlando chief Mike McCoy was recruited to replace him. Dyer chose as chief Val Demings, 50, head of the 300-person patrol division and overseer of Operation Delta, a recent massive crackdown of street-drug operations targeted at reducing related violent crime. “Chief Demings is a no-nonsense cop,” Dyer said. “She knows how to get things done.” As the first woman to hold the post in the department’s 132-year history, she inherits an agency in the midst of a battle to control street violence, especially robberies, shootings, and murders. Last year, the city had a record 49 murders. This year, 36 people have been killed.