MARCO ISLAND — It's easy to see why Police Officer Al Schettino works well with small folks. When he smiles, children love him. His teddy bear friendliness wrapped in a blue uniform with badges, multiple two-way radios, a taser and gun are endless fascination and inspiration for Marco Island's school children.
Schettino is the island's School Resource Officer; and on Thursday, he became Marco Island's Police Officer of the Year. He smiled all the way to the podium to collect his award.
The honor was bestowed by the Marco Island Police Foundation as recognition for Schettino's hard work and dedication to Tommie Barfield Elementary, Marco Island Charter Middle School and Marco Island Academy. The award was given in ceremonies held Thursday at the Hideaway Beach Club.
Schettino refused to stand in the spotlight alone, commending his fellow officers and department leaders. He thanked the "outstanding" school principals for making his job appear seamless.
Schettino explained how the community benefited from promoting healthy and safe schools. He also spoke proudly of his parents' influence on his career.
"They taught me the value of love and caring and helping each other," he said.
Schettino recited a Brandi Snyder quote, saying it was the motto he lived by: "To the world you may be just one person, but to one person you may be the world."
Guest speaker Jose Carrillo, acting sergeant of Collier County's Special Response Bureau, gave a timely presentation, speaking on school safety and random mass shootings. He said the unfortunate thing about active shooters is the difficulty law enforcement faces trying to identify them.
Most mass murders are random acts and happen in populated areas, Carrillo said. He showed a video outlining steps citizens should take when faced with an active shooter. Watchwords were "Run, Hide, Fight."
If at all possible without injury, the video suggested getting out of the area to safety. Take others along who are willing to flee; but leave, even if others are reluctant to go. If leaving is not an option, hide in the safest place possible while remaining quiet and out of sight. Turn out lights and lock doors, if possible. When the only option is coming face-to-face with the shooter, fight with anything available that can be turned into a weapon.
Carrillo said active shootings are usually quick, taking only a few minutes, and law enforcement generally arrives after the action has taken place. When police arrive, their first responsibility is to secure the area and make sure the shooter is disarmed. Only then can emergency medical help be allowed to enter the area.
Joe Granda, police foundation president, named Marco Island Fire Chief Mike Murphy as the first recipient of the President's Award. Granda applauded the closeness of the island's two public service departments, police and fire, and the foundations that support them.
Detective Ed Stenzel received a special award and recognition from Marco Island Police Chief Don Hunter. Stenzel is retiring from the force. Hunter commended Stenzel's 37 years in law enforcement on Marco Island and in Milwaukee.
Hunter said he admired Stenzel's years of service, considering the stress and risk-taking required in law enforcement. It's not the money, but love of the job that keeps good people on the force, Hunter said.