The semifinalists for Sarasota’s next police chief each have 23 years’ or more of law-enforcement experience.
But the candidates all stand out for different reasons: One was named Officer of the Year three times; one was the head of security for delegates at the Republican National Convention in Tampa; one was the first African-American female captain for the Arlington County Police Department; one was the lead detective on many high-profile murder cases; and another established a new law-enforcement agency within 45 days in Campton Hills, Ill.
But, perhaps, the most significant attribute for a potential chief will be his or her commitment to community policing techniques, a top requirement for City Manager Tom Barwin.
Barwin, who was recently hired as Sarasota’s city manager, said community policing became a staple of the police department in Oak Park, Ill., where he served as manager for the past six years. Barwin said community policing is becoming a mainstay of modern police departments in which officers and members of the community are partners in a “two-way street.”
“Residents knew their area had a patrol officer responsible and accountable for that neighborhood,” Barwin said of Oak Park. “That officer would generate a monthly report. We opened satellite stations, had foot patrols in commercial districts and put up stats daily to hone in on where the crimes occurred.”
Barwin is interested in working with whoever is named Sarasota’s police chief on innovative programs, such as the High Point Initiative, a crime-fighting plan modeled after a program enacted in High Point, N.C. A similar initiative could be used to fight crime in Sarasota, one example being in North Sarasota.
On Oct. 5 and Oct. 6, the semifinalists for the chief of police post will come to Sarasota for a two-day interview process.
Notably missing from the previous short list of 13 candidates — which was culled down by interim City Manger Terry Lewis — were the local candidates. No candidates from the Sarasota Police Department made it on the short list, although two captains had applied.
Dorthy Schulz, professor of police studies at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said that the lack of local candidates making the cut could be explained by the tensions that precipitated the resignation of former Police Chief Peter Abbott in 2010. An investigation was launched into an officer who was caught on video and later fired for kicking a handcuffed Guatemalan immigrant. An attempt to cover up the incident sparked a scandal that led, in part, to Abbott’s resignation.
“When there is a big search for a chief, and no internal candidates make the top, it’s usually because of a scandal,” Schulz said.
Two women make final list for police chief
If either Bernadette DiPino or Tonya Vincent is tapped as Sarasota’s next police chief, she will become the first woman to lead the city’s police department.
City Manager Tom Barwin, who narrowed a list of 13 candidates to a short list of five last week, said DiPino and Vincent made the final list because of their solid on-the-job experience.
Women now make up about 2% of police chiefs nationally, up from less than 1% just a decade ago.
“The percentage in 10 years has increased significantly, from being an exception to about 2% now,” said Dorothy Schulz, a professor of police studies at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
“It is an interesting situation you have,” Schulz said, “because it is still unusual to have two women in the running (as semifinalists), but I think it does represent the wave of the future.”
Schulz, who tracks the number of women chiefs hired nationally and wrote the book, “Breaking the Brass Ceiling: Women Police Chiefs and Their Paths to the Top,” only recalled one other instance in which two women candidates were vying for a top-cop position. In 2003, Milwaukee’s former chief, Nannette Hegerty, was vying against another woman semi-finalist for the post. Hegerty was chosen as chief and served as the top cop there from 2003 to 2007.
It is even more rare, Schulz said, for a city to be considering two women candidates who are both from outside the city’s police force. Hegerty, for instance, started her law-enforcement career in Milwaukee before she was chosen as chief in 2003.
Current position: Police chief, Oak Forest, Ill., 2010 to present
Years in law enforcement: 32
Highlights: Instructor for Suburban Law Enforcement Academy in Illinois; at Aurora Police Department, initiated and planned new $22 million radio project
On the beat: Helped remake Aurora Police Department so that officers worked specific neighborhood beats and developed a relationship with residents. As an area commander, Anderson worked closely with neighborhood groups, clergy, civil-rights leaders and community-orientated police officers to fight crime.
Current position: Chief of police, Ocean City, Md., 2003 to present
Years in law enforcement: 27
Highlights: Officer of the Year (1987, 1993 and 1997)
On the beat: Earned 18 commendations, including recognition for disarming a suicidal person, recovering three kidnapped children, apprehending two homicide suspects and for her quick actions with a child in respiratory distress. As a sergeant in charge of Ocean City’s community policing unit in 1995, one of DiPino’s initiatives was to line up officer-supervised buses in front of bars and clubs to drive intoxicated patrons home safely. DiPino tweets police updates and safety tips.
Current position: Division commander (retired), Tampa Police Department, 2009 to 2011
Years in law enforcement: 30
Highlights: As security adviser for the Republican National Convention, planned and organized the convention’s delegate security at 100 hotels.
On the beat: Patrol units in a South Tampa neighborhood battled an increase in robberies and gang graffiti. Detectives, under the command of Ruggerio, began to identify members of the gang and eventually dismantled it. Officers reached out to younger members of the gang.
Ruggerio also collaborated with the owner of a nightclub that attracted gang members to clean up the business.
Current position: Support services commander, Clearwater Police Department, 2010 to present
Years in law enforcement: 30
Highlights: Officer of the Year (1994); initiated crime mapping program.
On the beat: Teunis earned the trust of a man from a high-crime neighborhood. As the man jogged by the then-police major, he would whisper the location of where the drug dealers were operating that day. The man and his wife were members of the neighborhood watch and went on to kept in touch with Teunis.
Current position: Deputy chief of police, Richmond, Va., 2011 to present
Years in law enforcement: 23
Highlights: First African-American female captain for the Arlington County Police Department; recipient of the Arlington County Exceptional Achievement Award.
On the beat: Vincent built a relationship with the Hispanic community that had historically not reported crimes because of their fear of the police. Soon after, the police department placed a substation in this neighborhood and eventually started a Citizen’s Police Academy taught in Spanish for volunteers from the area.
Currently, as deputy chief, Vincent oversees the department’s $82 million budget and led the shift to the use of a new multi-million dollar computer system.