Pete Cumming has seen all kinds of police work in his time on Longboat Key.
Happy times, tragedies, triumphs and setbacks.
When he retires at the end of October, following 40 years of law enforcement service, he'll have all that to reflect upon. But so will his co-workers and friends from around the town.
In chatting with some of them, we heard about his dedication to duty, filling in for friend and mentor Al Hogle following the former chief's death in 2012. We heard about high-profile investigations over the last few years, cases that just had be closed correctly. We heard of labor disagreements that ultimately were resolved.
And we heard of a good-natured rivalry in the sand between first-responders on a day off from the beat.
Though Cumming agreed to stay a few weeks past his announced final day, to accommodate new Chief Kelli Smith's arrival on Oct. 26, those same co-workers say they weren't surprised. That's just who Cumming is.
Here's what some of them had to say:
Isaac Brownman, Longboat Key Public Works Director
“I will tell you that I find Pete Cumming to be just a real professional, very personable, [a] good friend and [he] really cares about serving and protecting the residents of Longboat Key, and being a police officer and a man of integrity. ”
Paul Dezzi, Longboat Key Fire Chief
“I am going to miss him. I mean, we talked on a regular basis, almost every day on different issues, and we were always trying to be on the same page when it came to those issues. And I think that our departments are closer together now than they were in the past. And, I think it's because of the communication that we both have with each other. So I'm actually I'm going to miss working with him, but I am looking forward to a new chapter, and the new chapter will be with a new police chief, and I’m looking forward to that.”
Tom Harmer, Town Manager
“I met Pete when I was still the [Sarasota County] administrator, but I had accepted the position, and had given a five-months notice with the county. And, I came out here to have lunch with Pete and meet with him. And it just so happened, my first experience with him was the morning after the Zota murders.
“It really kicked off, I would say for chief and I, a very busy period. Over the last couple of years, we may have started together with that, but we also dealt with a carjacking at one of the condo complexes, traffic homicides, a high-profile suicide, the coyote presence on the island. And, Pete and his team trying to lead and coordinate our response to that. We went through an impasse hearing process with the police union, and then later were able to come back and resolve a three-year contract, and so it's been a busy couple years.
“I would obviously thank him. Forty years of service in law enforcement. The last part of that here on Longboat Key is a big deal and the community benefits from it.
“I would say that one of the things that I really heard back from residents about Pete is his responsiveness directly. I've had several residents contact me, even recently, just to say, ‘Hey, I called the police department or I called Town Hall and I had a question or an issue come up. And I needed to get some information, I was referred to the police department, and I can't believe it, the police chief himself called me. And I was just so impressed that I was able to hear back directly from the chief.”
Shawn Nagell, police officer, starting working with Cumming in 2008
“Pete came in at a very, very, very, very difficult time, both personally and professionally. I mean, what I have admired most about Pete in the past is, when [former Police Chief] Al [Hogle] died, it rocked us all.
“And, I think it takes a special kind of person to go from a captain or a sergeant or a line officer, lose one of your best friends and still come to work the next day, and Pete did. I mean it was a hard transition for him. Three days prior, his best friend was sitting in that chair and I have to give it to him for holding it together during that time period. I mean it was difficult for all of us, and he has definitely earned some time off, and some peace and quiet. I mean, he really has."
Nancy Rozance, former Rotary Club of Longboat Key president (2019-2020)
“He certainly was a friend of the Rotary Club of Longboat Key, and we so appreciated being able to recognize the first responders with his alliance with us and at the same time, we were able to have fun (with the family-friendly first responder recognition event). We're very, very sorry that he was never able to win the trophy for volleyball. When it comes to Guns and Hoses, the guns were much better at tug of war under the direction of the chief.
“He was always interested in improving relations between the residents of Longboat Key and the police department itself. We opened up the recognition of first responders event at Bayfront Park to the community, and that was under his direction. He said, ‘You know what, we would like to get to meet the people in a non-emergency situation.’ I think that he helped us make a difference in community relations. It shows the human side of the police department ... We just see people in uniform, so we got to see Chief Cumming in a Hawaiian shirt.''
Frank Rubino, Longboat Key Deputy Police Chief
“It’s been great working with Pete both at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and here at Longboat Key.”