Guest Commentary: What ‘Keep the Chief’ really means

Larry Honig
Marco Island city councilor
Police Chief Al Schettino's executive assistant posts a picture of a sign that states "Keep The Chief."

There is no election, but Marco Island residents may be approached to place a “Keep the Chief” sign in their yard. Police Chief Al Schettino’s retirement was apparently requested by the city manager.

Some have suggested that City Council members demanded that the manager terminate the chief. In a public meeting, I asked the manager if any councilor, at any time, had asked him to take any action regarding the police chief. The manager responded, “No sir, not at all.”

Larry Honig

The city manager apparently agreed to let the chief remain on the job through mid-June, so that he can receive a ceremonial badge for 10 years. It is alarming that the Police Foundation (of which I am a lifetime member) has paid for these signs in an attempt to undermine the city manager’s position. 

Before casually endorsing the “Keep the Chief” concept, it is important to know what it really means.

“Keep the Chief” means that police misconduct will continue to be overlooked, as it has been for at least three years. It started with a city councilor who demanded that a private citizen be issued a charging document (more serious than a citation), even though the investigating officers said there was no offense. The officers were overruled by the police chief. 

“Keep the Chief” means that police officers can violate city rules with impunity, such as having sex on duty. Unfortunately, 10% of the police force violated this rule and were not disciplined until the Marco Island “Eagle” published full details. The supervisor who knew about the violations did not report them – and was promoted!

“Keep the Chief” means that police officers can be overruled by the chief If they make the mistake of trying to issue a citation to someone favored by the Chief, or someone who has had sex with multiple officers. The Chief has left standing instructions to be called on all these matters, and he is on tape ordering his officers to ignore their purported citation, release the alleged offender, and “move on.”

“Keep the Chief” means that credible allegations of misconduct and illegal activity by Marco Island police officers will not be investigated. City council paid for an employee survey in 2017. Currently employed police officers alleged that records were changed, some crimes were classified as non-crimes (to make Marco Island seem “safer”), time cards were falsified, sexual favors were routine, and citizens were being targeted for citation. Only councilor Grifoni and I supported further review of these claims over a year ago.

“Keep the Chief” means that uniformed police officers will be encouraged to campaign on behalf of favored city council candidates in violation of Florida statutes. The chief himself has engaged in electioneering, contrary to the law.

“Keep the Chief” means that in the current police union contract negotiations, the police chief will make sure that his favorites are handsomely rewarded. He will make sure that any officer who is not in lockstep with his methods or who questions wrongdoing in the department will be punished with unfavorable duty assignments and poor financial treatment.  

In summary, if you are driving around the island and see a “Keep the Chief” sign in someone’s yard, you now know that it means no accountability for criminal activity or misconduct in the police department. It means that bullying and intimidation mean more than our city charter and principles of good government. It means there is a favored class of citizens who the chief allows to be above the law.