Sarasota Police chief announces retirement after only about seven months in the position, citing unexpected health concerns

Deputy Chief Troche named interim chief

Chief James Rieser. Image courtesy Sarasota Police Department

After Sarasota Police Chief Bernadette DiPino announced her resignation in late January, Sarasota City Manager Marlon Brown acted quickly to name her replacement: Capt. James Rieser.

“It’s an honor to promote and appoint Jim Rieser to become SPD’s 12th chief of police,” Brown said at the time. “During his 29-year career with SPD [Sarasota Police Department], he has risen through the ranks from police officer 2nd class to sergeant [to] lieutenant and has been serving as captain for the past six years,” Brown added. “He’s well-respected in the department and community and well-versed with SPD’s extensive policies and initiatives. He is prepared to step in as chief immediately and move the organization forward, strengthen trust between law enforcement and neighborhoods and lead SPD into a new technological realm with body worn cameras,” Brown added.

“Having spent most of his life in Sarasota and being a city resident, he is fully committed and dedicated to our community,” Brown said of Rieser. “Being the chief is a significant responsibility, and Jim Rieser will serve our community and the men and women of SPD well.”

During the Jan. 29 introduction of Rieser to the public — an event held in front of SPD Headquarters on Adams Lane in downtown Sarasota — Mayor Hagen Brody told those present, “With Jim Rieser’s appointment today this community can rest assured that public safety and police services will not skip a beat, and we are fortunate to have someone with his experience, character and integrity ready and willing to step up and serve in this new role as our next police chief.”

This week, after only about seven months on the job, Rieser announced his retirement from the post.

That was effective at 5 p.m. on Aug. 25.

“Because of recent unexpected health issues and after much consideration and reflection, I have submitted my retirement,” Rieser explained in a statement issued by SPD. “I have been honored and humbled to serve as the Chief of Police for the past seven months,” Rieser added. “It’s been an honor to serve this beautiful community I consider paradise over the past 29 years. The professionalism, integrity, and level of service of the men and women of the Sarasota Police Department are above and beyond what any leader could ask for,” he concluded the statement.

Once again, City Manager Brown did not take long to put another person in charge of the department.

Sarasota City Manager Marlon Brown. Image courtesy City of Sarasota

The same day Rieser’s retirement began, Brown appointed Deputy Chief Rex Troche as interim SPD chief.

On Feb. 16, Rieser had named Troche the first Hispanic deputy chief for the department.

Troche was one of department representatives to appear before the City Commission in early May to talk about implementation of the new body-worn camera program.

Unlike the situation with Rieser, however, Brown indicated in a city news release that he would be consulting with Deputy City Manager Pat Robinson — a former Sarasota Police Department deputy chief — and city Human Resources Director Stacie Mason “about the process for hiring a new chief,” the news release noted.

The Police Department’s announcement also provided details about Rieser’s service, including the fact that he joined the department in April 1992.

“Rieser served in the Patrol Division, Professional Standards Division, Narcotics and Criminal Investigations Division, and most recently was the commander of the Support Services Division before being appointed Chief of Police in January 2021,” the release said.

“During his service,” it pointed out, “he was awarded a Life-Saving Medal, Distinguished Service Medal, and Meritorious Service Medal, as well as several commendations.”

“We appreciate Chief Rieser’s dedicated service to Sarasota for the past 29 years and his leadership as police chief over the past seven months,” Brown said in making the announcement about Troche. “Now, we look forward to a seamless transition with Deputy Chief Troche stepping into the interim role. With his extensive background in law enforcement and his exemplary service to the department in a variety of positions over the past two decades,” Brown continued, “[Roche] is a natural choice to immediately step into this role while continuing to serve the community.”

The interim chief

Interim SPD Chief Rex Troche. Photo courtesy Sarasota Police Department

Troche began his career with the Sarasota Police Department in 2002, the city news release added. He has served in all four agency divisions (Patrol, Professional Standards, Criminal Investigations, and Support Services) as either an officer or supervisor, the release noted.

“It’s been an honor and privilege to serve under Chief Rieser’s direction. He‘s been extremely impactful not just for our agency but for our community,” Troche said in the release. “I would like to ensure our community that the Sarasota Police Department will continue to move forward with initiatives that are in place and keep the City of Sarasota a safe place to live, work and play.”

Troche was promoted to sergeant in 2013 and then promoted to lieutenant in 2017, the release continued. “In 2018, he earned a master’s degree in emergency management from Saint Leo University and was promoted to Captain in June 2020,” it added.

Troche is a member of the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association, International Association of Chiefs of Police and FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development. Last week, he graduated from the Senior Management Institute for Police (SMIP), a leadership program hosted by the Police Executive Research Forum, the release pointed out.

Accolades for Rieser

In the release about Troche, city commissioners expressed their gratitude to Rieser for his time with the department:

  • “Jim has helped us tremendously through a very trying time and is leaving the department in great shape. We thank him for that and for his three decades of service to our community. We wish him well.” — Mayor Hagen Brody.
  • “We want to thank the Chief for his 29 years of distinguished service to Sarasota.” — Vice Mayor Erik Arroyo.
  • “I respect Chief Rieser’s decision and thank him for his service to our City. I wish him and his family all the best.” — Commissioner Jen Ahearn-Koch.
  • “I’d like to express my gratitude for Chief Rieser’s service, and I wish him the very best for his future.” — Commissioner Liz Alpert.
  • “It has been a pleasure getting to know Chief Rieser. I recognize his value to the City and am sorry to see him leave. I’m thankful for his service to the community and wish the best for him and his family in their future endeavors.” —Commissioner Kyle Battie.

Numerous comments were posted on the Police Department’s Facebook page in response to the announcement about Rieser. Many people offered prayers for him, and multiple writers thanked him for his service.

One commented, “One of the best Chiefs the department has had. The short amount of time you were Chief you made a huge difference to the PD and your staff. You will be missed.”

Another offered a similar view: “I think the community is losing a very good leader.”

A third wrote, “You have done an exemplary job as Chief and I wish you well. I wish your retirement was a more joyous occasion. Best of luck and health. You have set a great example for your officers. Wishing you the best of the best.”