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Longboat Key Police Department nears possible accreditation

After performing well in the initial assessment, all that’s left is to go before the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement in February 2024 for final review.

Accreditation assessors question Officer Joshua Connors about the marine patrol vessel.
Accreditation assessors question Officer Joshua Connors about the marine patrol vessel.
Courtesy image
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Soon Longboat Key Chief of Police George Turner may be able to tell future officers that his department is an accredited organization. 

The Longboat Key Police Department has been working on becoming an accredited police department for over two years. On Dec. 7, the accreditation assessors wrapped up after three days of review. 

“They sat down with myself, Town Manager (Howard Tipton) and my staff, and told us that we are in 100% compliance with everything,” Turner said. 

Next, the department needs to go before the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement in February 2024 for final review. Given the results of the assessment, Town Manager Howard Tipton doesn't have much doubt that anything will change after that.

“Having been in the room when they shared that score, I would feel very confident in the outcome on Feb. 22,” Tipton said.

Turner said having the accreditation could provide potential benefits in terms of recruitment and retention, as being an accredited department is seen as a draw. Accreditation holds organizations to a higher standard of professionalism through meeting standards and requirements. These standards include officer safety and training requirements.

“We do a lot of good work, and a lot of good things,” Turner said. “And this accreditation is just the icing on the cake. It’s a great achievement for everybody that works for the PD.” 

Necessary changes

The process began in 2021 when the town received a grant from the Barancik Foundation to fund the road to accreditation. The grant total was $274,850, which covered the accreditation, training and technology. 

Turner returned to Longboat Key to become the chief of police in early 2022, and he said the staff had the goal of accreditation.

In January 2023, the department signed a contract with the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement to officially notify them of the department’s intent to pursue accreditation. 

From there, the clock was ticking.

“We had to make a 100% change in policy,” Turner told the Town Commission at the Dec. 11 workshop. 

This doesn’t mean a complete change in procedures, though. Turner said the department lacked a solid policy manual before the process began, and much of the work had to do with creating official documentation of procedures and making sure all employees fully understood the policies.

Turner said he’s been a part of four other accreditation processes in departments in both New York and Florida. 

“It’s just a lot of work,” he said. “And everybody has to be on board, everybody has to be committed to doing it.” 

While a lot of the work fell on Turner and his upper-level staff to get the department in order, he also had to hire law enforcement accreditation managers. 

After interviewing several candidates for the contract, Turner decided to hire Areaka Jewell and Sarah Kenniff for the job.

Kenniff had previously worked with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office as an accreditation manager, and Jewell previously held the same role at the Sarasota Police Department and Key West Police Department. 

The department had a mock assessment in November, which it also aced, according to Turner. After that, he was confident the department could repeat the results. 

Seal of approval

Throughout the three-day assessment, state assessors tested every aspect of the Longboat Key Police Department. 

Each day the assessors spent 10 hours at the department after spending weeks studying the department’s policies, according to Turner. The assessors were from Brevard County, Doral and St. Lucie County. 

“They went through all our policy procedures one by one,” Turner said.

During a static display on Dec. 6, officers presented a patrol vehicle, the marine patrol boats and beach patrol vehicle to the assessors. This display was meant not only to check the equipment but also to test officers on the policies and procedures that go along with operating certain mechanics of the vehicles. 

The Longboat Key Police Department's vehicle fleet was inspected by state accreditation assessors.
Courtesy image

The assessors joined officers on ride-alongs, but couldn’t make it out on a marine patrol due to the weather. They questioned the officers on various scenarios to test them on policies such as using a stun gun and proper pursuit technique. 

If official accreditation is given to the department, the status would need to be renewed every three years with the same assessment. An annual report would also be required. 

Although the department won’t receive the official final ruling until February, Mayor Ken Schneier took the “leap of faith” and pre-congratulated Turner at the Dec. 11 Town Commission workshop. 

“That sounds like it’s a shoo-in, 100% is, in my book, as good as it can get,” Schneier said. “We appreciate you going through this whole process. I know it’s been long and difficult, but we’re a better town and you’re a better police force and that’s the most important thing.” 



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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