The REAL Miami Vice!

Biography

Welcome to the website of Award-Winning
Crime Author, Michael Berish.
www.realmiamivice.com
“The world is full of stories, not atoms.”

I was born and raised on the banks of the Hudson River in Poughkeepsie, New York;


(age four)

received an A.A. degree in Criminal Justice; graduated from the University of Pittsburgh on an academic scholarship—with a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology; attended one year of law school; and later earned my Master of Arts degree in Communications from Miami's Barry University, where I took courses in Production, Directing, Screenplay Writing, etc.

"The entire life of a human being depends upon 'yes' or 'no' uttered two or three times between the ages of sixteen and twenty-five.”

    After graduating from the University of Pittsburgh in 1968, I was hired by General Motors in Indiana and supervised 135 people at Delco-Remy which was the fifth largest division—at the time—out of forty-seven divisions in General Motors; there were over a dozen plants, all the size of airport hangers, and they employed over twenty-thousand people.

    After two years at G.M., I was burned out from the tedium, the noise of the factory, and an endless supply of regulators and under-the-hood parts (you could fill the ocean with them) that continuously circled the plant on an over-head pulley system, like a merry-go-round.  I knew that I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life building and counting auto parts.

    I had an older cousin who graduated from Cornell Law School, moved to Houston, Texas to practice criminal law, and champion the righteousness and sanctity of the law.  I figured I’d try law school.

    I went back to New York and enrolled in law school.  One day, I was sitting in a criminal law class when the professor said to the class: Here is a recent Supreme Court decision; it’s only two days old.  Now, I want you to read and brief it.  After the class finished the assignment, the professor said: Now, suppose a guy did this…this…and this (crafting an example that fit the circumstances of the recent case law).  The object of his lesson was to figure out how a lawyer would get the criminal “off” instead of being found guilty.

    The criminal law professor was teaching us how to beat the law (just two days old); how to twist the facts around and make circumstances up to beat the case, the Constitution, and the very system we were supposed to be upholding.  I thought to myself: it would be a much more rewarding life for me to put the bad guys in jail that deserved to be there, make the cases stick, and beat these high-priced attorneys—that law schools are churning out daily—at their own game.

    After a year, I left law school (it was sort of a mutual decision), borrowed enough money from an uncle to fly to Daytona Beach, then hitchhiked to Miami—where I heard the police force was hiring.

I had $50.00 in my pocket and stayed at the YMCA for $7.00 a night.


(M.P.D. Recruit Class # 80 - November, 1972)

    I either walked or took a bus around town to take the entrance exams for the police academy, which were rigorous and took about four days.  In addition to taking day-long mental and psychological tests, I was interviewed (or, was it interrogated) by the brass at M.P.D. as to my moral and ethical background; had to climb and eight-foot wall; swim, then dive to the bottom of a ten-foot pool and lift a life-size dummy off the bottom; in addition to running one-hundred yards in under twenty seconds.  The running was no problem: I did it in 10.1 seconds (I had some experience in running as I played football, track and cross-country in high school and received a Major Letter in all three sports).  Then, I had to take a polygraph exam. 
    
The technician tells you the questions before hand and asks you for a response, either “Yes,” or “No.”  You now have time to ponder you’re responses, so when he asks you the same question—while your strapped to the polygraph machine—he’ll know if you’re lying or not.  
    One of the pre-questions was whether I had ever smoked pot, or taken any other drugs.  I answered, “No.”  He was very skeptical of my response, since I went to college in the sixties during the era of Haight-Ashbury, mass protests and riots by college students against Viet-Nam, rebellion towards the government, free love and smoking pot.  He warned me not to lie, as a lie would immediately disqualify me from being accepted on the department.  I responded “No” to the drug question while on the machine.  
    After the exam, he was amazed and said, “You were telling the truth!  I found no deception when I asked you if you ever smoked pot, or took any other drugs.”  
    My philosophy was—and always remained, unlike some cops on the department — that as a police officer you should set an example, not violate the laws that you were sworn to enforce—especially if you worked in Narcotics.  
    I was hired and went to the six-month long police academy.  
    
    I worked my first "civil disturbance" as an academy recruit in 1972 during the Republican and Democratic presidential conventions that were both held in Miami that year.  The next "civil disturbance" I worked resulted in eighteen deaths; I’d call that a full-blown race riot, not a "civil disturbance."  That riot was in 1980; others followed in ’82, ’84, and ’89; and that was just the decade of the Eighties!

As a rookie, I was assigned to the Patrol section in “the Pit,” which is now the subject of many of my short stories.



    
Within one year, I made detective, went to S.I.S. (Special Investigation Section), and was assigned to Narcotics and Vice.  Back in those days, you were subjected to an extensive background check—even though you were already a police officer—just to make sure your financial background was in order and you weren’t hanging about with unsavory characters, so that you wouldn’t be susceptible to bribes and corruption.

    Normally, an undercover detective in this unit is transferred after three years to make sure he isn’t tainted.  I lasted almost fourteen years and left on my own accord.  I had a professional and personality conflict with a supervisor that I preferred not to work for (Hey, it happens to all police officers on every department; no big deal); otherwise, I would have finished my career with twenty years in Vice; I loved it that much.

    In addition, when a detective makes rank (promoted from detective to sergeant), he is automatically transferred back to Patrol to gain experience there as a supervisor.  This never happened to me.  I went to my promotional
ceremony, received my sergeant’s badge, went back upstairs to Narcotics and Vice and continued working just as before; only now I finally got some help, as detectives were assigned to assist me with the workload.

                                                (Promoted to Sergeant in Vice Squad by Chief Harms - 1983)

    
I became proficient as an expert in the field of obscenity; testified in front of the Meese Commission on Obscenity during the Reagan Administration; was subpoenaed by the F.B.I. to testify for them in New Orleans—as an expert witness—reference an interstate transportation case; lectured in front of numerous civic groups; taught week-long seminars to other law enforcement agencies on First Amendment rights; helped train new Assistant State Attorneys on how to properly conduct obscenity investigations; made over a thousand cases, mostly against organized crime syndicates, which have the best attorneys in the world; closed down twenty adult bookstores (I acquired the nickname of "the Peeper" because of all the "peep show" machines I confiscated out of these stores) and theaters in Miami and never lost one obscenity case.  I lived up to my promise when I left law school: I finally put the bad guys in jail that deserved to be there, made the cases stick, and beat these high-priced attorneys—that law schools were churning out daily—at their own game.

(Testifying in front of the Meese Commission on Organized Crime's involvement in Obscenity - 1986)

     When a patrol offficer is promoted to Narcotics, the first thing he does is grow a beard.  No more strict dress code and rules.  I was no exception.  I quickly learned that the beard was more of a hindrance than a help, so I shaved it and went to a stubble look.  Why?


    Prior to going into production, the producers of the TV series Miami Vice came to Miami to interview the real undercover vice cops, in order to make the series more realistic, as to what went on in both their profession and personal lives.  I had a few days growth of stubble, and one of the producers asked me why.  I said: “If you are clean-shaven and trying to buy dope in the ghetto, the bad guys won’t sell to you because you look like a cop.  If you grow a beard, they won’t sell to you because that’s the first thing a cop from Patrol does when he hits Vice: grow a beard.  But, if you only shave on your days off, then during the week let the stubble grow out, you’ll look like a heroin junkie that just crawled out of a garbage dumpster in need of a fix.  In the series, the character that Don Johnson played, turns up with the stubble.  Go figure.

“Berish’s real-life chases and arrests were no less exciting than ones on the show (Miami Vice),” said retired F.B.I. Special Agent Bill Kelly, in an interview with the Daytona News-Journal.

 

    During my career, I was involved in barroom brawls, knife fights, and shoot-outs; survived high speed chases, cargo planes crashing in the streets, and over ten "civil disturbances"—as the City preferred to call them—most of which were due to differences between the various ethnic and cultural milieu within Miami a.k.a. the Magic City.

    I’ve been praised; got my fair share of commendations, citations, and ribbons; been persecuted and passed-over for promotions—several times—because of reverse discrimination; received several police awards, and when decked out in my uniform, I looked like a Russian ice skater.

While on the department, I started writing screenplays.

    I had an agent in Hollywood who pitched my police script entitled: “Intolerable,” which was read by both Clint Eastwood’s Production Company and Burt Reynolds’ Company.  I also wrote a scathing screenplay entitled: “Kilroy Was Here,” which was about the atrocities the Japanese committed against American P.O.W.’s in concentration camps, on the island of Japan, during World War II. 

    When I retired, I settled into writing several short stories, which were published in various magazines.  These thirty stories were consolidated into an anthology of short stories entitled: “Reflections from the Pit.”   I also wrote two plays: "Deaf, Dumb and Blind," and "Sampson and Lila."

    I am also featured in another anthology entitled, “Bad Cops, No Donut.”  In addition, I’m working on a new novel entitled: “When Kings Go Forth.”  It’s not a cop book; it follows several generations of Hungarians (from 1849 to the present) and their trials and tribulations from Budapest to America.

     Retired from M.P.D., I'm a bachelor currently living on the Atlantic Ocean, on a barrier island off the coast of Florida.

    
NOTE: To order any of my books (either hardcover, paperback, E-books, new, used, or personalized authographed copies of my book), or to contact me reference any questions, information, etc., please go to my ORDER BOOKS - CONTACT ME page, at the top of this website, or CLICK HERE.

   

    When not writing, I (above photo) try to squeeze in some tennis and golf (not very successfully) and play my guitars, while managing my three, rambunctious, mixed dogs: Huckleberry Finn, Dewey (below) and Jake.

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