A response to citizens’ concerns regarding the size of our police force, vehicles, etc.
On behalf of the Marco Island Police Department I would like to thank all those citizens who have been writing to us directly, as well as to City Council, expressing your opinions about the service we perform. I wish to clarify a misconception relative to the traffic stops we make, as well as questions regarding the size of our staff, and questions pertaining to our vehicle fleet. I would like to address these issues in the hopes of putting your concerns to rest; should you still have questions, please feel free to write directly to me at: Dhunter@marcoislandpolice.us.
In the past fiscal year Marco Island had 26 patrol officers on duty; we have four officers on patrol at all times working a 12-hour shift; a typical squad shift deployment includes a supervisory person (sergeant) on duty. We have a small support staff for the evidence room, reception area and official records management; we also have three detectives, two community service members (a school crossing guard element and a school resource officer), and a flexible operations unit for which City Council has authorized three officers for the fiscal year (all but one of these positions have been filled).
At the current time our staffing does not permit routine police boat/marine operations. Part of Marco Island’s property taxes are paid to Collier County and are allocated to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO), which is required by law to provide service to Marco Island; however the practical reality is that CCSO is under-staffed due to budgetary constraints, and their available staff is allocated to those areas within the county that have a significantly higher incidence of crime than does Marco Island. If called to respond to Marco Island, CCSO would dispatch a patrol, however the response time is typically dependent on a patrol deputy that is not stationed on island. We do receive marine patrol, crime scene processing, large evidence storage service, special weapons and tactics (SWAT) response, K-9, special traffic operations, gang enforcement, officer training, jail services, bailiff services in the courts, aviation operations and other services from the sheriff’s office that are paid for through our taxes.
A popular misconception is that MIPD has a large number of new patrol vehicles. Our fleet is comprised primarily of Chevrolet SUV’s (we were a Ford fleet but found the dependability, life-span, discontinuation of the larger Ford pursuit sedan, the resizing and structural reengineering of the downsized Ford SUV and other considerations recommended the Chevrolet Tahoe Police Pursuit Vehicle as superior).
The pursuit/patrol fleet is purchased under a state of Florida government contract. The average age of our fleet police vehicles is five (5) years old and our vehicles typically accrue in excess of 100,000 miles before decommissioning and resale at auction. While I served as Sheriff of Collier County the usual life-span of a patrol vehicle was 1.5 to two years and 100,000 miles. It is important to keep in mind that police patrol vehicles on the island, unlike your personal vehicles, operate virtually non-stop (they are not individually assigned but rather are shared by on-duty patrol officers), these patrol vehicles are operated for approximately 12 hours per shift in our island environment, constantly accelerating and decelerating, stopping, and travelling over frequently flooded streets in an extremely harsh salt environment.
With the assistance of the sheriff’s office working weekender program, we keep our fleet vehicle skins washed and waxed and in good condition to help retain resale value at end of useful life. Many residents are surprised to find that although they seem to see our black patrol vehicles “everywhere,” the reality is that we only have one black patrol vehicle! There is a supervisor’s vehicle that is black as well, but it does not patrol the island; frankly the constant sightings are a complement to the thoroughness of our patrol officers exercise in providing high profile visibility to our island. We will be in neighborhoods for visible presence to prevent daytime burglary while you are away from home at work or on errands.
When the MIPD issues a traffic citation the fees collected do not go to the MIPD; in fact, if an officer has to attend court for an offense we actually lose money because the officer cannot perform their regular duties and may be subject to overtime pay. In my former position as sheriff, traffic stops and traffic enforcement had become a primary concern of my constituents owing to the grossly violated speed limits, running/failure to stop at traffic lighted and signage controlled intersections resulting in many serious injuries, deaths and the family losses resulting from these tragedies. I would add that traffic stops are the situations in which law enforcement officers not only attempt to change poor driving habits but also discover weapons, gang members, wanted persons, associates of known offenders and drugs and paraphernalia.
In other words, traffic stops are a primary focus of law enforcement agencies. Just in my previous two years here as your chief of police, I noticed a significant uptick in the requests from neighborhoods for more speed enforcement and enforcement of traffic control devices (stop signs in neighborhoods).
The citizens of Marco Island have a high expectation of service. As Fire/Rescue Chief Murphy has indicated on numerous occasions, both of our departments respond to an inordinate number of medical calls; fortunately, although we do have crime, it’s obviously a relatively small number in relation to the medical calls. Despite inflation in operating costs and budget-imposed reductions, we have maintained a high level of service to our community and our entire staff, as well as myself, remain committed to doing so.