Search for new police chief down to final five

Sarasota Police Chief Mikel Hollaway is scheduled to retire in October. Photo courtesy City of Sarasota

Five active police executives made the final cut for Sarasota’s new police chief. City Manager Tom Barwin made the selections from the list of 13 left by Interim City Manager Terry Lewis.

The final five include two police chiefs – one in Illinois; the other in Maryland – and one deputy chief. The other two are senior officers with Florida departments. Two of the finalists are women. Only three women applied out of the 98 total applicants.

Barwin will invite the final five to visit Sarasota for a round of interviews in early October. He will make the final decision, because the police chief reports to him. However, the candidates will also talk with the city commissioners, and a public meeting is scheduled for Friday, Oct. 5.

It’s been 31 years since Barwin put on a uniform, gun and badge to patrol the streets of Detroit — from 1977 to 1981. Knowledge he gained in that job will be useful in making his decision. “What I am looking for is a fundamental commitment to roll up their sleeves and work with every neighborhood in this community,” he said. “When I went through all the [application] materials, including their essays, this group all seemed to have a core, fundamental, experienced belief in the importance of community-police partnerships.”

Barwin is organizing round-table discussions with members of the Sarasota Police Department – both line and staff officers – to hear what they want in a new chief. “I’ve already had a few discussions with officers I’ve bumped into,” he said. “I want to know the real deal from their perspective.”

And no, Barwin did not know finalist Greg Anderson while Barwin was in his last job as village manager of Oak Park, Ill.

The finalists

• Greg Anderson is police chief of Oak Forest, Ill. He was a 27-year veteran of the Aurora, Ill., force before becoming chief in Campton Hills, Ill., then Oak Forest. He was a member of a police advisory committee in Aurora composed of representatives of civil rights organizations, neighborhood leaders, clergy and police. “The committee’s role was advisory, and the department was committed to collaboration with the committee,” he wrote as part of his application.

• Bernadette DiPino is police chief of Ocean City, Md. “As police chief one of the greatest compliments I ever received was given to me by a restaurant owner in Ocean City as I sat with one of my commanders eating lunch and discussing strategies. The owner said, ‘You ought to write a book and title it How to keep a City Quiet.’ I reflected on his comment. My first thought was the key to our success is community policing. This philosophy has led our community to feel we live in a safe place.”

• Sal Ruggerio is a Tampa Police Department major and division commander protecting south and west Tampa. Asked what he would do in the first 90 to 120 days, Ruggerio put forth a 10-step plan, including step five: “Is the current operational strategy for the department working? If so, make adjustments. If not, make changes.”

• Mark Teunis is a major with the Clearwater PD, running the service division. “A modern police department must find ways to create proactive policing measures such as surveys, high volume calls, civil disorder or fear, decay or blighted areas, juvenile problem areas, best practices, graduation rates, truancy rates, school discipline rates, etc,” he wrote. “Police departments today operate in a much more challenging environment and have a broader level of responsibility.”

• Tonya Vincent is deputy police chief in Richmond, Va. She previously was the acting deputy chief of the Arlington County, Va. PD.  “Being the first African American female captain in the history of the Arlington County Police Department inspired me to encourage other minorities to take advantage of promotional opportunities and to be successful. It was important for me to leave a leadership legacy within my agency,” she wrote. “The majority of my career has been based around community policing.”