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Search begins for Longboat Key's new police chief

Police Chief Pete Cumming is set to retire in October after a 40-year career in law enforcement.

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  • | 2:57 p.m. July 16, 2020
Pete Cumming has been with the Longboat Key Police Department since 2008.
Pete Cumming has been with the Longboat Key Police Department since 2008.
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The town of Longboat Key is accepting applications to find a new police chief by the fall.

“Currently, we’re on track with our process, but the outcome is more important than the schedule,” Town Manager Tom Harmer said. “If we need to take a little bit longer as we go through the process to evaluate the candidates and end up getting to a couple of candidates and then a final decision, I will do that.

“I’m confident that we’ll find the next police chief that will fit well into the town of Longboat Key and our customer service expectations and the needs of the department.”

Harmer is responsible for finding Police Chief Pete Cumming’s replacement. Cumming is set to retire on Oct. 1, having completed 40 years of police work.

“I’ve been meeting with members of the police department just to talk to them about what are the big issues facing the department?” Harmer said. “What are the things that the chief would need to address in his or her first six months to a year?”

Harmer said these informal conversations with employees have helped him better understand the department’s priorities.

The police chief’s responsibilities are threefold, according to Harmer:

  1. Leading the police department.
  2. Working in conjunction with the town’s department heads.
  3. Working with nearby towns, cities and counties.

Harmer said he will use a two-step process for reviewing the applicants: First, Harmer will develop a shortlist of candidates before conducting more extensive interviews.

“Obviously, you [have to] know about the town, community policing, but even at a unique level of community policing is the expectation, and that’s what our officers provide now,” Harmer said. “I think the chief has to help set that standard for community policing: How we interact with our residents, how we interact with our visitors, that high level of customer service that we provide and expect, and so someone that understands that and can help set the example for that is going to be very important for us.”

Harmer said he will consider feedback from the town’s department heads and employees along with some outside assistance from law enforcement agencies in nearby municipalities.

The town is planning to hold the initial screening process virtually because of concerns related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When we get down to a top couple of candidates, if I don’t have an existing relationship with those top candidates, we’ll have face-to-face meetings,” Harmer said. “But, that’ll be later in the process when we’re only talking about a couple of candidates.”

The town prefers candidates with a college degree in public administration, law enforcement or criminology. It also prefers candidates with at least 10 years of law enforcement experience, including five years of upper-level supervisory and administrative duties.

Requirements for the position include graduation from a two-year college program with a major in public administration, law enforcement or criminology, supplemented by advanced courses in modern police administration methods and practices. The candidate must also have considerable experience in law enforcement work, including responsible supervisory police duties.

The listed annual salary for the town’s police chief position is between $101,000 and $115,000.

Two internal candidates have applied for the job as of Thursday afternoon, according to Harmer.

Cumming has served as Longboat Key's chief of police since 2012, when he was promoted after the death of Chief Al Hogle in a motorcycle accident.

“He has great command presence. He takes [the] position seriously,  but he represents the town well,” Harmer said of Cumming. “He has good relationships with the media and the public. And, he fits in well with the leadership team in the town. So he's served the town well in his time here.”

Last year, data compiled by website Security Baron ranked Longboat Key as the fourth-safest city in Florida.

Editor's Note: This story has been corrected to show the town of Longboat Key will accept applications for the police chief position until it is filled.



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