‘Protecting paradise’: MIPD bringing on crop of new officers
In April, the Marco Island Police Department debuted their new recruiting video, which they posted on YouTube, to make it available to more potential officers. At the end of May, they were ready to debut results from their search – a crop of new police officers.
The MIPD has just hired seven new full time patrol officers, and is also bringing on additional reserve and community service officers. Three of the new hires were mandated by the recent emphasis on improved school security, following the Parkland and other school shootings.
“In March, the City Council authorized the chief’s request for three new school resource officers” for Tommie Barfield Elementary, Marco Island Charter Middle School and Marco Island Academy, said Capt. Dave Baer. In addition, he said, four officers recently left the department, including Capt. Nick Ojanovic, who took a position at a larger agency in Georgia, and three sergeants who resigned.
While the just-ended school year was underway, MIPD had already dedicated fulltime officers to each school, but will now be able to do so without pulling staff from other responsibilities or incurring overtime pay. The new officers will not necessarily be the ones assigned as school resource officers, said Baer. Each starts as a patrol officer, and will work a combination of day and night shifts, being paired with at least three different officers as they begin their training in police work on Marco Island.
While each new hire is a graduate of the police academy, and holds a Florida law enforcement certification in criminal justice, each will undertake a 16-week field training program.
“Other agencies’ procedures and policies may be different. There’s the Florida way, the Collier County way, and a Marco Island way of doing things,” said Baer. Before each applicant was hired, they had to fill out a 60-page application, and go through tests including a background check, polygraph, fingerprinting, physical exam, drug screening, agility test and self-rescue swim test.
“In our world, we don’t use resumes,” said Baer. A month ago, he said that with unemployment at record lows, “the recruiting pool has dried up to a recruiting puddle. Everybody’s competing for the same candidates.”
Following is a little information on the MIPD’s new hires. We will report further when the next three officers start.
Juan Monsalve, 35, originally comes from Medellin, Colombia, and worked as a private security officer. Baer was stingy with details on the personal lives and resumes of the new officers, intent on protecting their privacy and their families’ – if any – privacy. Hispanic and fluent in Spanish, Monsalve will help with diversity in the department, although Baer said the MIPD has had a number of Hispanic and black officers, and “we look at the individual, not the race.”
Dwayne Johnson, 56, will be one of those, and currently the only black MIPD officer. He brings with him 20 years of experience on the metro Washington, D.C. police force, and like Chief Al Schettino, originally comes from New Jersey.
“Think of the value that experience has for us,” said Baer. “In D.C., they dealt with things like VIP protection, and snow emergencies.” Part of the new hires’ training here will include preparation for hurricanes and more tropical weather events.
Officer Allan Reyes, 40, comes to the MIPD from Miami. He has over a decade of firefighting and EMS experience as a firefighter, and “a couple of years” in law enforcement with the Collier Sheriff’s Office. Also fluent in Spanish, his fire department experience will come into play when the police department works with firefighters in medical emergencies, said Baer.
Mark Huffor, the last of the first four full-time officers, was not on hand at the police station during the press opportunity, but is well known to many on the island.
Huffor was an original member of the MIPD when it began in 1999, and has owned a business on the island for years.
A veteran of other law enforcement agencies, his inside knowledge from his time with the Collier and Lee County sheriffs’ departments will help in coordination with those agencies, said Baer.
Huffor’s wife Carolyn is a civilian volunteer with the department.