Wayne McCammon, longtime Longboat Key police chief, died yesterday. He was 83.
McCammon’s first day as the town’s police chief was May 2, 1973. Looking back on that day in 1996, as he prepared to retire, he told the Longboat Observer:
“The day I was hired as chief of police at Longboat Key was the best day in my law enforcement career.”
McCammon’s daughter, Linda Romanowski, described her father’s love for the Key.
“He just felt that it was a unique place to live and that it had the opportunity to have so much one-on-one with people,” she said.
McCammon worked hard to keep the Key’s crime rates low. He lived on the island so he could be on the scene right away in emergencies and took pride in round-the-clock patrols and a visible presence.
“It still took effort to make the place safe,” Romanowski said. “He just really liked the small-town feeling, and it meant a great deal to him to be able to help people when he could."
Born Oct. 28, 1930, in New Brunswick, N.J., McCammon joined the Army at 17 and served for eight years. He was wounded in action during the Korean War, and was later stationed in Germany.
His first law enforcement job was in 1957, when he joined the Fairlawn, N.J., police department. He resigned in 1968 to serve for two years as a civilian adviser to the South Vietnam national police.
After moving to Florida, McCammon joined the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. He left two years later to become police chief in Leavenworth, Kan., but returned to the area within six months after learning about the job opening on the Key.
McCammon was hired for a starting salary of $12,000 to lead a department with nine staffers, two patrol cars and a $90,000 annual budget. By the time he retired 23 years later, the department had 27 employees, eight patrol cars, two boats, a truck and a $1.4 million annual budget.
Despite the Key’s low crime rates, McCammon led the department through several high-profile cases, including six murders and Operation Longboat, a multi-agency effort that resulted in arrests of 11 men and women, including a Longboat Key couple, and the seizure of more than a ton of cocaine and $2 million cash in 1989.
McCammon was known for his focus on public safety, often giving this well-known warning to residents who would not evacuate:
“Put your name on a toe tag so we can identify you.”
He was also the original author of the Longboat Observer’s “Cop’s Corner” column that chronicles the department’s incident reports from the previous week, often in a humorous style.
The New Yorker magazine printed one of McCammon’s entries in the mid-1980s, which read:
“Woman reported noises in her attic. Officer said the lady did not have an attic.”
McCammon is survived by his daughters, Linda Romanowski and Susie Meador, both of Lakewood Ranch, and Maggie Hicks, of Sarasota; four grandchildren; one great-grandson; and “sweetie” of more than 10 years, Olga Davis, of Longboat Key and Toronto.
No public service will be held.
Memorial contributions can be made to Meals on Wheels Plus of Manatee, mealsonwheelsplus.org.
For more information, pick up a June 5 copy of the Longboat Observer.
Contact Robin Hartill at [email protected].