Sarasota has a new police chief.
City Manager Tom Barwin has chosen Bernadette DiPino as the city’s top cop. DiPino, who has been police chief in Ocean City, Md. Since 2003, will oversee a force of 174 sworn police officers in Sarasota
Barwin announced the decision today at 3 p.m.
The new chief brings experience as a police chief and as a community-policing instructor, training more than a thousand officers. During her career, DiPino was named Officer of the Year three times and received 18 commendations, including one for disarming a suicidal person and another for her work with the narcotics unit.
DiPino became the first SWAT team officer, first lieutenant, and eventually first female police chief in Ocean City.
She is the first woman to lead Sarasota’s police department. Sarasota currently has 23 sworn women officers on a force of 174 total officers.
Just up the road, Tampa's police department is overseen by Jane Castor, who was appointed chief by Tampa Mayor Pam Iorio in 2009.
In Sarasota DiPino inherits a department that has been surrounded by controversy following a high-profile investigation into excessive force that resulted in the forced resignation of former police chief Peter Abbott. Further budget cuts and changes to the police pension plan are also on the horizon.
David Massey, who as former police chief in Ocean City encouraged DiPino to apply for his post when he retired, said DiPino is up to the challenges in Sarasota.
“She never fails,” Massey said. “I gave her some of the toughest assignments to see how she would handle them, and there wasn’t one that she didn’t do well.”
Massey said DiPino is also experienced with working closely with the business community and neighborhood associations.
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.