On March 8, 1981, Martin Sharkey joined the Longboat Key Police Department. His plan was to stay a couple of years, then move on to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Department.
But his plan changed.
Deputy Chief Sharkey, who was been with the Longboat department for 30 years, will retire April 1.
“I just found my niche in law enforcement with the Longboat Key Police Department,” Sharkey said. “I was 21 when Chief Wayne McCammon hired me. McCammon was bigger than life and a no-nonsense guy. I know without him I would not be where I am today.”
Sharkey spent a couple of years working with his dad, Anthony, in the boat-building industry after he graduated from Bayshore High School, in Bradenton.
“But it wasn’t for me,” Sharkey said. “I always wanted to be a cop.”
He spent 13 years as a patrolman; his salary for his first year on the job was $11,398.
For several years he specialized in traffic issues, primarily drunk drivers, and worked a 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. shift.
“I was good at it and was recognized for several years by Mothers Against Drunk Driving,” Sharkey said.
Sharkey advanced in the department, becoming deputy chief in 1996, with John Kintz as police chief.
In 2003, he spent 10 weeks with the FBI Academy in Virginia and returned with 19 college credits. Asked by Police Chief Al Hogle, “What do you intend to do with them?” Sharkey took the hint and went on to get an associate’s degree in business from Western International College and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Bellevue University, both online.
“I had a thirst for knowledge in law enforcement, and I took every course I could get into,” Sharkey said.
He has served in the detective division, on marine patrol, assisted other agencies in drugs busts and performed various administrative duties.
“Without serving in the field, I would not have been able to be an administrator,” he says. “I couldn’t have done this job without being in the trenches.”
Looking back, Sharkey remembers some unusual assignments.
“I remember one commission had us park patrol cars on the sidewalks and check bike riders for bike bells,” he said.
But, there were some mishaps, as well.
“About two years after I joined the force, we found a soccer ball-sized firework on the beach,” Sharkey said. “We called the Manatee Sheriff bomb squad, and we decided to detonate it in a vacant area, which is now Corey’s Landing. But the bomb squad guy goofed. It exploded into hundreds of embers, setting small fires in about three acres of wooded area. I heard from McCammon on that one.”
And, after 30 years, Sharkey has a confession: He was behind the 1990 abduction of the Longboat Key Fire Department’s winning softball trophy.
In a Longboat Key firemen versus policemen softball game in 1990, the firemen trounced the cops. The winning ball, which was made into a trophy, was on display at the fire department.
That is, until it disappeared. A ransom letter was received, and photos of the ball traveling to Arizona, Oregon, New York and even England were sent. A British constable on a trip to the United States brought the ball to a Town Commission meeting the same year it was stolen, but it disappeared again and has never been found.
Sharkey denies any knowledge of the second disappearance.
There is a common sentiment that Longboat has no crime, but Sharkey denies this.
“Although we have very few violent crimes, we do have burglaries, fraud and domestic calls,” he says.
“Regardless, our trained officers never let their guard down. You never know what the next call will be.”
Hogle has high praise for Sharkey.
“He has always reached out to work with and learn from other bigger departments to raise his skills,” Hogle said.
In retirement, Sharkey plans to pursue a new career in boating, both as a captain and in boat maintenance management. He attended Merchant Marine Captain School and has his 100-ton master’s license.
“I have been blessed to have this career,” Sharkey said. “I can’t think of a single person I met and didn’t like — except maybe a few who took a little more to make them happy.”
But, career aside, Sharkey’s proudest accomplishment is his 20-year-old daughter, Alexandra, a student at the State College of Florida Manatee-Sarasota.
Contact Dora Walters at [email protected]