The Longboat Key Police Department is now officially under review for at least the next year.
The department has been preparing for such a review with the state for the past six months as leaders update policies and ensure they are in compliance with all state statutes.
Jan. 4 was a milestone in the process as the contract with the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation was signed, starting the formal review process.
“I know the Chief has a goal to earn the accreditation status in less than two years and believes that we are in a position to do so,” Town Manager Tom Harmer wrote in an email to commissioners. “It typically takes at least a year from this point so that the department can demonstrate a year of tracking and monitoring of all of the activities that are evaluated as part of the process.”
A team from the commission will come to the department and analyze and observe everything the department does, Police Chief George Turner said previously.
The team will take notes on what is done well and what needs improvement before deciding whether to recommend the department for accreditation.
The department’s staff will then go in front of a state accreditation board made up of members appointed by the governor, which includes members of law enforcement. The board will go through the report from the commission before voting on whether to award the accreditation.
Accreditation lasts three years before the department is visited again with higher standards to meet to achieve the status again. The process continues every three years to maintain the accreditation.
“It’s a never-ending process,” Turner said. “It’s about police professionalism and wanting to keep up with the laws.”
Once completed, the accreditation marks approval from an outside authority that the department is living up to the standards that have been set.
A sampling of the points to be examined by the state board:
- A written directive that regulates the types of off-duty employment in which agency members may or may not engage.
- A written directive that requires that members receive copies of and are instructed in the agency’s use of force policy before they are authorized to carry lethal or less-lethal weapons.
- A written directive describes the proper use of the following equipment during emergency and non-emergency situations: emergency lights; sirens; hazard warning lights; spotlights, if equipped; and public address systems, if equipped.
- A written directive establishes an incident reporting system to include: guidelines for when reports must be written, forms to be used, information required, procedures for completing incident reports, procedures for submitting and processing incident reports, and documented supervisory review.
- Access to evidence areas is controlled to prevent the alteration, unauthorized removal, theft or other compromise of evidence stored by the agency and to maintain chain of custody.
The Baranick Foundation in 2021 awarded the town a grant of $274,850 over a three-year period. The town plans to apply the funding toward accreditation-related efforts, training, policy development and technology.
In 2020, philanthropists Margery and Charles Barancik were killed in a crash involving their car and a Longboat Key police officer responding to a call on the south end of the island.
Sarasota Police, investigating the crash, found that Officer Jeffrey Vogt was not at fault, but an internal investigation that led to his firing found Vogt's Ford Explorer police SUV hit 84 mph before braking, beyond the town's speed standard set up for optimum visual conditions in a 45 mph zone. The crash took place 17 minutes after sunset.
Early in Harmer’s discussions with the foundation, Harmer wrote, previous police chief Pete Cumming announced his retirement.
From that point forward, an emphasis was placed on hiring a new chief that had documented Florida accreditation experience. Turner has accreditation and re-accreditation experience in his former roles as well as being a past state certified Accreditation Manager and Accreditation Assessor.
Longboat Key Police Department is the last in the area to apply for the recognition. Bradenton Police Department has been accredited since 2003. Manatee Sheriff’s Office has been accredited since 1996 along with the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. The Sarasota Police Department achieved the status for the first time in 2002.