By the end of this week, the Sarasota City Commission should know whether City Manager Marlon Brown will promote from within or continue a nationwide search for the city’s next police chief.
Since August 2021, the Sarasota Police Department has been led by interim Chief of Police Rex Troche, who served as deputy chief under retired Chief James Rieser. In the seven months since, Brown has undertaken an internal and nationwide search for Rieser’s replacement, engaging more than 55 stakeholder groups, about 20% of them providing input about qualifications they would like to see in a police chief.
Brown also sought input from the police labor union because the majority of employees who report to the chief of police are unionized.
“What I have been looking for is someone who not just knows and understands law enforcement but someone who can also really manage the department,” Brown said. “That means ensuring that the individuals that we have working at the SPD understand what direction we need to go in, ensuring the morale in the organization and that we have individuals in the right place in terms of our our structure.
“Whoever is chosen as chief, whether we promote from the inside or we go from the national search, that person will have skills for law enforcement but also will have to be able to manage the department.”
The SPD is no small department to manage, with 180 sworn officers, and Brown has won approval from the City Commission to add 10 more. It also has 53 full-time and eight part-time non-sworn personnel.
Nationwide, the average ratio of sworn officers per 1,000 residents is 2.4. With a permanent population of 59,900, Sarasota will have 3.1 sworn officers per 1,000 citizens once the hiring is complete. With an estimated seasonal population of 96,000, however, that falls to just below two officers per 1,000 civilians in the city.
During its meeting on April 4, Mayor Erik Arroyo and other city commissioners said they support promoting the new chief from within. At that same meeting, Troche reported violent crime was down 23.5% in most categories through the first quarter of the year compared to the same period the year prior.
If the new chief does come from inside SPD, Troche would be the presumptive successor to Rieser. Brown also has the option of naming the new chief at the end of the week if he is so inclined.
“I told the commission at the last commission meeting that I will make a decision by the end of the month, which is this week,” Brown said. “So stay tuned for what direction I intend to go.”