Acting Longboat Key Police Chief Pete Cumming’s last alien sighting was probably in 2003 or 2004.
The big green aliens adorned the T-shirts at UFO Exports in Fort Myers.
It was a fictitious pawnshop operated in 2003 by Cumming, then an undercover Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent, to build cases against people dealing in stolen goods.
“UFO” actually stood for Undercover Fencing Operation.
Cumming elicited confessions by telling suspects that he would buy anything but just needed to know whether the goods were stolen so that he could send them out of the country. He got names and phone numbers from many suspects by raffling a big-screen TV. And, every so often, he would see someone in Fort Myers sporting an alien shirt and know that they were likely involved in the operation.
The fact that it was a setup was a concept alien to those who sold goods and put on the T-shirts.
The operation netted a 100% conviction rate for the 55 people arrested.
Like the role of pawnshop operator, which lasted about six months, many of Cumming’s identities were fleeting during his 24 years of working out of uniform.
But Cumming’s latest role is likely to be more permanent: He became acting Longboat Key Police Chief in May, following the death of Police Chief Al Hogle, and is the likely successor to the permanent role.
Cumming admits that early in his career, Longboat Key wouldn’t have been an attractive place for him. But, in 2008, after Hogle told him about the open captain position, he realized that it was where he needed to be.
“For many years, I was an adrenaline junkie, as most cops are,” Cumming said. “I enjoyed serving warrants and knocking down doors. But, after all that time, my needs changed. I wanted to become more involved in helping people.”
To learn more about Cumming, read our Q&A:
How did you get into law enforcement?
My grandfather was a corrections officer in Sing-Sing Correctional Facility in New York, so I guess that planted the seed of law enforcement as a concept. After moving to Sarasota as a teenager, I began looking at it because it was something I respected. Police always did the right thing and they caught the bad guy. I got my associate’s degree from Manatee Community College (now State College of Florida) and worked a couple of odd jobs and then got hired by the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office in 1980 as a uniformed patrol deputy.
Tell me about your career before Longboat Key.
I spent four years as a patrol deputy before getting promoted to detective, investigating crimes like burglary and theft before getting promoted to investigate crimes against persons and, then, narcotics.
Then, I went to the cold-case squad looking at old, unsolved homicides. I got promoted to corporal and then got hired in January 1989 as a special agent and went back into narcotics from 1989 to 1994. Then, in 1994, I became part of a tactical unit that would target high-crime areas involved with drugs.
In 1998, I went back to the Sarasota field office and tried to branch out into violent crimes. Then, I transferred to the Fort Myers operations center, where they were having a problem with street gangs and theft. I operated a fictitious pawnshop for about six months, then spent about three months building cases.
Then, I spent about two years traveling around a five-county area from Manatee to Collier hunting down absconded sexual predators.
I transferred back to the Sarasota field office, but, before that, I spent some time investigating officer-involved shootings.
What are your top priorities for the police department?
To make sure that the officers have what they need to get their job done. The license-plate camera system would clearly be a good investigative tool. I’m big on training. I think we have good equipment. I consider the (force) we currently have to be the best this department has ever seen, collectively.
What is the status of the license-plate cameras planned for each end of the island?
We extended the bidding process (approximately 10 bids have come in so far) to October because of Al’s passing and all of the turmoil. We’re actively assessing all of the details. We’re working with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT). Placement should not be a problem.
Will a police position remaining unfilled (as planned for the 2012-13 fiscal year budget) impact public safety?
No. We’ll have to work a little harder. I’d like to fill the police officer position as soon as possible. Really, we’re down two people right now — my position and (retired patrol officer) Charlie Erickson’s position.
What was a typical day like for you as captain? And what’s a typical day like now as acting police chief?
As captain, I would come in and do administrative stuff and return calls and then work about half of my shift on the street. As police chief, you check your calendar before you go to bed and again in the morning. I live by my smart phone. As much as I’m honored to be here, I think daily about how I can be as good as Al was at this job. I try to keep my eyes and ears open and try to learn. A typical day is atypical.
Are there plans for a permanent memorial to Chief Al Hogle on town properties?
We’ll be planting a magnolia tree out by the Police Department with a plaque that says “In memory of Al Hogle, chief of police,” probably soon. There will probably be other memorials.
Acting Police Chief Pete Cumming
Home: Westchester County, N.Y.
Interesting fact: Cumming and his wife, Diane, breed Galapagos tortoises. The largest of their four tortoises is a 300-pounder named Seabring.
Currently 1 Response
- Chief Cumming sounds like he has tons of investigative experience, but what kind of supervisory/ administrative experience does he have? Just curious to see if he is able to fill the late chief Hogle's shoes.
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