George Turner will be sworn in as Longboat Key’s police chief on March 14 after serving in an interim capacity for about 10 months, Town Manager Tom Harmer announced to Town commissioners in a memo on Thursday.
Turner, who served with the department from 2001 to 2007 as a captain, has more than 40 years in law enforcement, including chief of the Brooksville Police in Hernando County. He began working again in Longboat Key in late April 2021, following the departure of Chief Kelli Smith, who resigned after six months to accept a chief’s position at Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers. Smith replaced Chief Pete Cumming, who retired in October 2020.
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"Very proud to return, and to now stay on in the permanent position," Turner wrote in response to a congratulatory message from Mayor Ken Schneier.
Over the past 10 months, Turner has been tasked with advancing plans for the department’s accreditation process. According to Harmer, progress to that end has already been made, updating equipment, setting new policies and arranging for officer training. Turner was also instrumental in helping the Brooksville Police Department gain accreditation, one of the key reasons he was brought in as an interim leader.
"We are fortunate to have a great group of officers and employees within the department and look forward to Chief Turner leading this great team," Harmer wrote.
In late 2021, Turner said the police department had addressed concerns raised in a review and assessment performed by Smith and summarized in an April 23 report she delivered shortly before her resignation. Also toward the goal of accreditation and training, the Barancik Foundation donated $274,850 to the department.
In February, the department swore in Detective Thomas Baugher, who retired from the FBI as a supervisory special agent. He will help the department with accreditation, training and investigations.
Throughout 2021, Turner led the department through the budgeting process for the fiscal year 2022 and helped the town navigate full implementation of a resident parking program in Longbeach Village, complaints about boat noise and the resulting changes in town policy and worked to fill staff openings.