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Longboat Key Police Department receives state accreditation

The Longboat Key Police Department accepted their accreditation from the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation.
The Longboat Key Police Department accepted their accreditation from the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation.
Courtesy image
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For the first time in its history, the Longboat Key Police Department is officially accredited. 

On Feb. 22, members of the department were named an accredited police department by the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation. The decision was unanimous among the 15 commissioners. 

“Things went perfect,” Chief of Police George Turner said. “Could not have gone any better.” 

Now, the department gets to adorn officers with pins, and the patrol vehicles with stickers to display the accreditation status. 

That status is one that provides potential benefits in recruitment and retention, according to Turner.

Being an accredited agency means the department is held to a higher standard by meeting a variety of requirements. For the police accreditation, there were 235 metrics that needed to be addressed, which include things like officer safety and training. 

Longboat Key was the only department in Sarasota County without accreditation until now.

Town Manager Howard Tipton, Mayor Ken Schneier and Longboat Key District 1 Commissioner Gary Coffin joined the department in St. Augustine to commemorate years of behind-the-scenes work. 

“All seven commissioners that we have, or have had, have always been supportive of the PD,” Turner said. 

Chief of Police George Turner adds the Longboat Key Police Department patch to the wall of accredited agencies.
Courtesy image

Turner said the accreditation process, which spanned over the past three years, was a team effort. Not only within his department, but across the entire town. 

“There was a lot of help that we had from other departments within the town that helped us get here,” Turner said. “Without their help, we wouldn’t have been able to achieve that.” 

Other town departments, like finance and human resources, were not only supportive, but also played a role in the process as it related to the department’s budgeting and hiring. 

The accreditation process as a whole required combing through every police department policy and making sure what the Longboat Key Police Department did was in compliance with what it means to be a professional law enforcement agency in Florida.

Road to accreditation 

The process began about three years ago. 

In 2021, the Charles & Margery Barancik Foundation awarded the town $274,850 to be spent over a three-year period. That money was specifically earmarked for the police department’s accreditation process. 

In April of that year, Turner was hired as the interim chief of police. He had previously worked in the department from December 2001 through October 2007. 

Former Town Manager Tom Harmer hired Turner as interim chief of police because of his previous experience with the Longboat Key Police Department. Turner also had previous accreditation experience with four other agencies he worked for. 

Starting with Turner’s interim tenure, the department began its self-assessment. 

This meant going through their policy book, evidence, report filing system and other aspects of the department to see what was needed to meet standards.

Then in March 2022, Turner officially took the title of chief of police. 

To prepare for the accreditation, Turner said the entire department had to review the self-assessment and make sure their policies were in line with the 235 standards of the Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation. 

Not all of those apply to every agency, though. For example, the Longboat Key Police Department doesn’t have any K-9 unit, so any standards relating to that would not be included in their review. 

It was still a heavy lift for everyone involved. 

“Every member of the department had to buy in 100%,” Turner said. “It’s a lot more work for them. They have to be up on every one of our policies and procedures.” 

Before the department could sign into a contract stating their intent for accreditation, everything needed to be ready. 

“A lot of that stuff, it took us a while to get in place,” Turner said. “And we had to have everything in place and our house clean, per say, before we signed that contract.”

A big part of that was reviewing evidence and old reports. 

“We had to go through our evidence. We purged hundreds and hundreds of pieces of evidence that no longer needed to be here,” Turner said.

He added an example, saying that years ago, people would bring items to the police department as “lost and found,” and that would be handled similarly to evidence from crime scenes. 

Before Harmer’s departure from his role as town manager, he wanted to see the accreditation process really shift into gear, according to Turner. 

On Jan. 4, 2023, that contract was signed, and the clock began for the department's accreditation. 

Turner said the department could have been ready for a review right then, but they needed to prove they could withhold the standards they had worked hard to get to. 

But that year also brought positive changes to the department, like new officers and the addition of take home vehicles for all officers. 

Take home vehicles aren’t something that necessarily contribute to accreditation, Turner said. But it’s something that helps the department stick out as a professional agency. It also helps with morale and recruitment. 

But now that the department had vehicles for each officer, that meant more procedures to be included as a part of the accreditation review.

Turner also hired some outside help for the task at hand. Areaka Jewell and Sarah Kenniff, both law enforcement accreditation managers, were hired by Turner to help oversee the process. 

Without having dedicated accreditation managers, Turner said this wouldn’t have been possible.

In November 2023, the department underwent a mock review. They had some time to review the results and make sure everything was tidy for the big test a month later. 

Dec. 5-7, 2023, three assessors from Brevard, Doral and St. Lucie counties spent 10 hours each day with the department, going through policies, equipment and talking with personnel. 

After the review, Turner and his staff were confident they would receive the seal of approval. But they couldn’t yet say they were an accredited agency. 

But now they can. 

It’s not a one-and-done assessment, though. To maintain accreditation status, the department will be up for reaccreditation in three years. 

“I plan on being here in three years to see that happen again,” Turner said.



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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