Chief finalist Pierce vows to bring transparency, accountability to Marco Island police
Calling transparency and accountability an important part of public safety, Terrance Pierce walks the walk and talks the talk.
The former longtime Montgomery County (Md.) police officer and current Gainesville Police Department assistant chief has been an integral part of championing these tenets so when the Marco Island police chief’s position came available, he knew it was the perfect opportunity.
“When it came up, I knew my background and history and I consider it to be a perfect fit for the city of Marco Island,” Pierce said. “Transparency is an important issue in public safety.”
Pierce is one of the five remaining candidates to replace outgoing Chief Al Schettino, who was forced into retirement as a result of embarrassing incidents, such as multiple officers have sex on duty, and questionable leadership decisions.
Pierce pulled no punches when it came to who bore some responsibility and said it was now a question of whether there were cultural issues within the department.
“There is a void in leadership at the top,” Pierce said. “If you didn’t know, you should have known.”
Pierce said that all organizations have so-called bad apples, but complacency settles in if no action is taken.
Pierce pointed specifically to Brian Granneman’s promotion to sergeant months after he was reprimanded for knowing that his then-supervisor, Sgt. James Inlow, was having sex on duty.
The point was to ask what kind of culture had to exist for Granneman to rationalize how that behavior was okay and to not report it to any of his other superiors.
“I know without a doubt that the majority of the officers are good officers and have good ethical standards,” Pierce said. “But when they get to that point of uncertainty, that’s when they look to their peers and that’s how they make their decisions.”
That’s why Pierce said if there is a need for a change of culture, it must also come from the bottom and that he wants officers to feel comfortable with blowing the whistle.
“There is no thin blue line,” Pierce said. “We are all part of the same community.”
With public safety having an air of secrecy around it, Pierce has taken steps in his career to break down some of those barriers.
In Gainesville, it has been as simple as posting police policies on the internet for the public to view or creating a public group to review the results of internal affairs investigations.
“If it is closed and completed, why can’t a group of individuals, which would have to be completed, have an opportunity to review them?” Pierce said. “There is nothing wrong with that.”
Pierce, who is a member of Police Executive Research Forum, also said he would not oppose either an internal audit or a third-party investigation of past police incidents.
“Everybody will be held accountable,” Pierce said. “If you become a supervisor or manager on the Marco Island Police Department, your accountability level has increased exponentially.”
While embarrassing issues at the police department have taken the spotlight, the department is not all doom and gloom.
Pierce, whose resume includes an abundance of experience with community policing, said that Marco Island does do many things well, including how it organizes its patrols. The next step is taking it from good to great.
In Gainesville, Pierce was high on implementing predictive policing where police noticed an uptick of car burglaries committed by juvenile offenders.
“Every Thursday, we’d meet with every member of local law enforcement, the State Attorney’s Office, parole and probation and list goes on and on,” Pierce said. “We identified kids that need extra help and the city has had some good juvenile resources that can assist these kids. In this school year, we made 10 arrests in the schools. There are some districts that do that in a week.”
Pierce said the goal was to defer prosecution and find different programs to help them out. For adults, the same thing applied for drugs so they implemented interventions of sorts.
“We have in place social resources for them to turn their lives around,” Pierce said.
For Marco Island, Pierce said one of the main issues was theft and is something predictive policing could help determine the underlying causes and reduce crime.
“Are these people out in the street that we could be helping?” Pierce said. “It’s community policing with more heads. Nothing is in a silo.”