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Longboat Police expansion stalls amid funding gap

The Longboat Key Police Department is looking for grants to fund a $1.3 million expansion that would add a 1,300-square-foot training facility onto the existing building.

The Longboat Key Police Department.
The Longboat Key Police Department.
File photo
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Chief of Police George Turner hopes an expansion to the Longboat Key Police Department would add more space that could be shared with nearby departments.

Turner said the possible expansion to the department’s headquarters is in the works, but the department is still trying to find funding for the $1.3 million project after a recent grant opportunity fell through. 

The 1,300-square-foot expansion would be added onto the existing building and provide more space for training simulations. 

“It’s definitely something that’s needed for us,” Turner said. “We have no training room here.”

Currently, the department uses an old holding cell for de-escalation simulation training. 

The building cost — including engineering and permit costs — is estimated to be about $1 million. With equipment and everything included, the total expansion cost would be around $1.3 million, according to Turner. 

Plans for the building are already complete and waiting for funding to move forward. A local architecture firm completed the plan for free, Turner said.

According to Turner, the mayors and police chiefs in Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach submitted letters of support for grants to pay for the expansion. 

Turner said the police departments from both those towns could benefit from having a larger training facility nearby on Longboat Key. 

“Everybody that we interact with would be welcome to use our place,” Turner said.

Longboat PD already invites the neighboring agencies to use the existing de-escalation simulation. This joint effort was something that the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation noted in the department's first accreditation review in February

The town had applied for a federal grant for the project, but that grant was recently rejected because it wasn’t able to be used for building construction, according to Turner. 

Now, Turner said he’s working with the town to see what other funding opportunities are out there to keep the project moving forward. 

“We’re continuing to try to find other funding sources for this very important project,” Turner said.

Training possibilities 

In the current situation, Turner said that his officers sometimes need to go to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office for training like a driving simulator. 

“It takes an hour to get there, an hour to get back without traffic,” Turner said. “It limits the amount of training we can offer.” 

For that reason, Turner said it would be easier for the department to have its own on-site facility to offer training before or after shifts and eliminate the driving time. 

The Longboat Key Police Department recently added some hybrid vehicles to the fleet, as well as assigning every officer a take-home vehicle.
File photo

Not only that, but the department’s existing training room is not spacious enough, according to Turner. Currently, the officers go through de-escalation simulations in the building’s former holding cell. 

“A larger room would allow us to train more people and run more people through it,” Turner said 

The simulator is something that the department started using about a year and a half ago and is something that puts officers through real-life scenarios, like domestic disputes and dogs on the beach. 

With more space, Turner said the department could implement training like first aid, large emergency response, active shooter scenarios and pursued driving.

“All those kinds of classes would be held on-site,” Turner said. 

Though the funding isn’t currently available, everything else is ready to go and Turner said he is still focused on pushing for this expansion. 

“It’s definitely not on the back burner. We’re still actively pursuing getting this done,” 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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