Updated 5:15 p.m. Oct. 16
Sarasota welcomes its first-ever police chief today with the hiring of Ocean City (Md.) Police Chief Bernadette DiPino.
DiPino applied after opting to retire from the Ocean City Police Department through the department's Deferred Retirement Option, which is the same option Sarasota Police Chief Mikel Hollaway chose, scheduling his retirement for January. Hollaway was originally scheduled to retire at the end of October, but agreed to delay his retirement for the transition.
"I will do everything I can to make your experience living or working or visiting Sarasota a positive one," DiPino said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference announcing her hiring at City Hall.
DiPino's first day on the job for the 110-year-old Sarasota Police Department will be Jan. 1, 2013. As part of her employment requirements, DiPino will reside in city limits. She has spent 27 years in law enforcement and became a certified community policing instructor in 1995, training 1,000 officers in the community policing model, which Sarasota officials want to become paramount to her tenure here to resolve police distrust in North Sarasota neighborhoods.
"I'm a huge advocate of community policing, and I believe that's where the success of law enforcement is," she said.
During a ridealong with officers during her job interviews, DiPino even stopped at a Newtown park to ask folks their opinion on police.
"They weren't mad at the police officers," DiPino said. "They just felt that their idea of what police should be doing and what they were doing was a little bit different, and it's really about communication."
Her connections should serve her well in that role as she has been in contact with David Kennedy, who devised the sought-after
"It's important for us as police officers to hear what the needs are of the community and tailor our response to those needs," DiPino said.
Here's her career in a snapshot from OceanCityToday.com:
A fourth-generation law enforcement officer, DiPino began her career with the Baltimore County Police Department in 1985. She moved to the OCPD in 1988, and advanced through the ranks to private first class in 1993, sergeant in 1995, lieutenant in 1998, and then to major and shortly thereafter chief of police in 2003.
Ocean City is Maryland's second largest city behind Baltimore during the summer due to the influx of visitors for its beach, boardwalk, fishing and crabbing as well as its humming nightlife scene. The average summer population swells to more than 260,000, and can easily reach 350,000 on the weekends.
City Manager Tom Barwin said her time in Ocean City should serve her well in Sarasota.
"Ocean City even has dealt with hurricanes, evacuations and other weather-related issues that are certainly familiar with us in the great state of Florida, and issues related to law enforcement and waterfonts," Barwin said.
During DiPino's tenure, she had to deal with investigating rowdy, overcrowded party buses during senior week, reports OceanCityToday.com, a week known for its high amount of underage drinking and teenage debauchery each year and banning Salvia and synthetic drug sales, crackdown on those scoot coupes that are popular here on Siesta Key, and cracking down on open containers.
The department was recognized for its traffic safety this year and has investigated more than 500 crashes and about 400 DUI/DWI arrests, reports TV station WMDT.
DiPino serves on the International Association of Chiefs of Police representing Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey and is also a past preident of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association. Her father, grandfather, great-grandfather were all officers and now her daughter is an officer in the same precinct in Baltimore County where DiPino started her career.
DiPino won over other candidates Gregory J. Anderson Oak Park Forest, Ill., Police Chief; Salvatore Ruggiero, retired division commander for Tampa Police Department; Mark A. Teunis, division commander of Clearwater Police Department; and Tonya D. Vincent, Richmond, Va., Deputy Police Chief.
"I believe that this choice will set the tone and a progressive standard for the city and the SPD men and women in blue for years to come," Mayor Suzanne Atwell said before embracing DiPino.
DiPino was in high spirits Tuesday afternoon during the press conference, joking with the media, and also saying how relieved she is that the "intense" process is over after meeting with hundreds of people at community forums and private meetings with city staff and police officers.
"That's what actually impressed me that made it easy for me to accept this offer because there's not a lot of chief jobs out there in the country that really go to that effort to engage the community and bring all those partners together," she said. "I congratulate you on that, but I'm glad it's done though."
Still, she said she wants to do a good job for the residents.
"They have high expectations, and I want to assure them that there's no higher expectation than what I have because my No. 1 priority is to make sure the men and women of the Sarasota Police Department go home safely to their families every night," DiPino said, adding she hopes to provide community policing, safety and cultural diversity training opportunities for her force.
Wearing black and orange, the colors of the Baltimore Orioles, DiPino said she'll feel right at home at the Spring Training home of the team in a beach community.
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