Tracy Frazzano at the 12-month mark as MIPD chief
Chief Tracy Frazzano has one year under her utility belt.
Frazzano was sworn in as police chief for Marco Island on Sept. 3, 2019, so the Marco Eagle checked in with her for a progress report at the 12-month mark. She made history as the first woman head the MIPD, after a career with the Montclair Police Department (MPD) that saw her break down a succession of barriers, becoming that department’s first female detective, sergeant, lieutenant, captain and deputy chief.
It’s fair to say that Frazzano did not know how her job, Marco Island and the nation would be upended by the coronavirus pandemic when she started.
“You can never envision what’s going to happen. Life has a way of stepping in and changing things,” she said. “The toughest thing for me has been that I really do like to interact with the community. I missed out on major events like Easter on the beach.”
The difficulty in regularly receiving community input, said Frazzano, has “put me behind in some things I want to accomplish.” But she has held numerous events including Lunch with the Chief, Coffee with a Cop, and Coloring with a Cop for kids, as well as “meet and greets” with organizations such as the Marco Island Woman’s Club, Rotary and Kiwanis clubs.
Staffing has been one issue for the MIPD. The department lost several officers to firing and resignation in the wake of the “sex on duty” and “Brady cop” scandals that led to the forced resignation of former chief Al Schettino, as well as retirement and the tragic death of MIPD Lt. Clayton Smith in a traffic accident.
“We’re supposed to be at 37 (sworn officers), so we’re recruiting,” she said. The department has a total of three female officers, including Frazzano, along with Officers Julie Pohutsky and Alejandra Marino. As far as ethnic diversity, “I want qualified law enforcement officers, whether they are male, female, Hispanic, Black or White.”
Marco Island faces unique challenges in attracting officer candidates, said Frazzano. Along with the high cost of housing and living, Marco’s seclusion increases the difficulty of recruiting. “We’re on an island – it’s difficult to get people to come here.”
She herself lives in Naples, in a house she and her husband, retired Montclair police captain William Frazzano, bought five years ago. They enjoy golfing, and “I picked up pickleball,” said Tracy Frazzano. She also represented the U.S. in the 2011 and 2015 World Police and Fire Games, and ran the New York City Marathon in 2013.
The youngest of five children, she comes from a family of first responders. Her father is a retired fire chief, her sister is retired from the NYPD, and her brother is a battalion with the Montclair Fire Dept.
Professionally, Chief Frazzano has a long string of accomplishments, accolades and training, including graduating from the FBI National Academy in the top one percent of her class, and spent a year on a fellowship in Washington with the Dept. of Homeland Security. She earned two masters degrees and a bachelor of science degree from Rutgers University. Frazzano coordinated the MPD becoming accredited.
She is moving to up the MIPD’s professionalism, and hired a specialist to make them an accredited department, through a program sponsored by the Fla. Dept. of Law Enforcement. “That will increase our efficiency, effectiveness, accountability and transparency,” she said.
Marco is a very different environment from Montclair, New Jersey, where Frazzano spent her entire law enforcement career before winning the Marco Island chief position. Montclair, she acknowledged, was the home of the fictional Tony Soprano and his crime family on the HBO series “The Sopranos.” She said the real life Montclair did not have the organized crime depicted on the show, but she did get to meet cast members including the late James Gandolfini, who played Tony Soprano.
With its proximity to New York City, Newark, East Orange, and other cities, Montclair, where as deputy chief Frazzano oversaw a force of 112 sworn officers, did have urban crime issues that Marco Island largely avoids. “It wasn’t Mafia-related, but there was more crime,” she said. Marco Island is ranked as one of the safest, most crime-free cities in Florida, and that causes people to let down their guard.
“Marco Island is very safe, and that’s part of the problem. People neglect to protect themselves, and don’t secure the possessions they own.”
Frazzano’s boss, Marco Island City Manager Mike McNees, gave her a glowing review at the one-year mark.
“Tracy has done a great job coming into a new community and integrating herself into the community,” said McNees. “She’s moving the department to higher standards. She’s off to a great start.”