Tuesday, September 18, 2018
Public safety

Brooksville Police Department closing its doors. Hernando sheriff promises community quality service

BROOKSVILLE -- At the Brooksville Police Department — long bustling with officers and now set to disband — boxes line hallways, desks sit empty and the interim chief sits in an office with bare walls.

After more than 100 years in operation, the department closes June 1. But Hernando County Sheriff’s deputies, who will provide law enforcement to the city, began helping the skeleton Brooksville police staff on patrol this week.

"I no longer have enough people to staff the road ... I have no detectives," said Paul Sireci, former director of public safety at Tampa International Airport. He also had a 44-year career in law enforcement and was hired in March to take over the department.

"People are leaving," he said. "They’re leaving for other jobs."

Of the 30-person staff, one retired, Sireci said. Fifteen applied for Hernando County deputy positions, with eight to be sworn in at the start of June, according to sheriff’s spokesperson Denise Moloney. The agency hired a grant accountant from the city, too, and three other people are in the hiring process for various positions. None hired by the sheriff will take a pay cut, said Sheriff Al Nienhuis. His agency has asked the Florida Retirement System about the officers’ options on their pensions.

Other officers went to nearby agencies. Four each went to the Florida Highway Patrol and Sumter County Sheriff’s Office. One each went to the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office and the Clearwater Police Department, Sireci said.

"These are very good police officers who can work everything from a noise complaint to a murder," he said. "To the people who are hiring these officers, they are getting very experienced, high-trained officers."

Critics of the City Council’s April 30 vote to disband the police department as a money-saving move worry that the Sheriff’s Office won’t provide the same level of service.

"I would ask that people give us a fair chance," Nienhuis said. "I know my people are dedicated to serving the city and providing a service that is as good, if not better, than what the department was providing."

The Sheriff’s Office will take over the police building at 87 Veterans Ave., as its District 1 office. It will serve as home base for about 60 employees, including at least five detectives, he said. At all times, at least two deputies will be patrolling Brooksville.

High-ranking deputies have begun visiting downtown Brooksville businesses, introducing themselves to owners and residents.

It’s an effort to "put people’s minds at ease," the sheriff said, "because our job is not just to keep people safe, but to make them feel safe."

The Sheriff’s Office will purchase about $255,000 in inventory from the department, including vehicles and various parts, weapons, ammo and other equipment, Sireci said. Of three state-owned military surplus Humvees the department had, one will go to the Sheriff’s Office and two to the Port Richey Police Department.

The Brooksville department also must transfer information — like evidence and reports — that personnel from both agencies are working to move over, he said.

Other than George Turner, who recently was dismissed from his job as police chief, Ed Tincher is the only former chief still living. Tincher owns the Lake Lindsey Mall and Deli.

"I’m kind of heartbroken over what’s happened," he said this week. Money-related strife between the department and city officials is long-standing, he said, and dates back to when he was chief from 1978 to 2008. In his opinion, the council’s bad money management led to the department’s downfall.

"Disbanding has always been a threat when there were budget concerns," Tincher said. "A police department should never be under any political influence — that’s not what their work is about — but it is."

Nienhuis, who is providing law enforcement services at a cheaper rate than the Police Department, said he is hopeful the saved funds will help the city continue to revitalize downtown.

In the meantime, he’ll continue looking for ways to connect with city shareholders and meet their needs.

"We’re going to do everything we possibly can to make it a smooth transition and make sure that the city council and the city residents don’t regret their decision," he said. "I think we are already working toward that."

Contact Megan Reeves at mreeves@tampabay.com. Follow @mareevs.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: City Council disbands Brooksville Police Department

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Brooksville police chief ousted

Comments
Police release name of man shot Tuesday at Tampa apartment complex

Police release name of man shot Tuesday at Tampa apartment complex

TAMPA — An 18-year-old man was critically injured Tuesday when he was shot at an apartment complex in northeast Tampa.Officers responded about 2:30 a.m. to a call about an unknown emergency at the Silver Oaks Apartments, 4200 Kenneth Court, Ta...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Fatal punch on Gandy median leads to manslaughter charge in Tampa muralist’s death

Fatal punch on Gandy median leads to manslaughter charge in Tampa muralist’s death

TAMPA — Police are bringing manslaughter charges against a Tampa man accused of throwing a fatal punch last April at well-known local muralist Matt Callahan.The suspect, 34-year-old Keith Mauga of Tampa, already is serving five years for aggravated b...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Police: Tarpon Springs man killed crossing road in wheelchair

Police: Tarpon Springs man killed crossing road in wheelchair

TARPON SPRINGS — A 58-year-old man was killed Monday after a car struck him as he was crossing the road in a wheelchair.According to Tarpon Springs police, Jon Pendleton, operating a manual wheelchair, started to cross U.S. 19 near Martin Luther King...
Updated: 3 hours ago
Fort Myers brothers wanted for stealing trailers caught in Pasco, taken down by K9

Fort Myers brothers wanted for stealing trailers caught in Pasco, taken down by K9

LAND O'LAKES — It started just after 9:30 Saturday night. Detectives from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office called counterparts in Pasco. Suspects they had been following through several counties might be hitting a trailer lot along Land O...
Updated: 4 hours ago
A gopher tortoise has been found with pink painted nails and shell

A gopher tortoise has been found with pink painted nails and shell

Photos once again are surfacing again on social media after someone painted a gopher tortoise. In a post on its Facebook page, the non-profit Owl's Nest Sanctuary for Wildlife in Odessa showed photos of a rescued female tortoise -- which is a threat...
Updated: 4 hours ago
Deputies: Pasco woman escapes attacker after death threats, sexual assault

Deputies: Pasco woman escapes attacker after death threats, sexual assault

PORT RICHEY — She was home doing laundry when he asked to come over. A few hours later she was running from his house, scared for her life after being raped, robbed and kidnapped, according to the Pasco Sheriff’s Office.Tyler Edward Pot...
Updated: 5 hours ago
St. Petersburg police: man fatally shot in empty lot

St. Petersburg police: man fatally shot in empty lot

ST. PETERSBURG — A man was fatally shot while he was in an empty lot Monday night near the Enoch D. Davis recreation center, police said.The man, whose name was not made public, was pronounced dead at a hospital.Detectives said he was in the lot near...
Published: 09/17/18
Tampa police make two arrests in two different crime sprees

Tampa police make two arrests in two different crime sprees

TAMPA— Two men accused of pulling off two different crime sprees were arrested by Tampa Police this weekend.One man was captured after a 14-hour frenzy of robberies at drive-thru restaurants across east Tampa, police said. The second man was arrested...
Published: 09/17/18
Stolen Winnebago bought for $246,445 worthless check is found

Stolen Winnebago bought for $246,445 worthless check is found

It has been found.The 2014 Winnebago that deputies say Robert Schneider bought on June 26 from the Lazy Days RV store in Seffner with a worthless check of $246,445 has been found, 2½-months later.The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office s...
Published: 09/17/18
Squatter accused in Tampa stabbing is also a suspect in slaying of Orlando woman

Squatter accused in Tampa stabbing is also a suspect in slaying of Orlando woman

TAMPA— A homeless man arrested Friday after police received a complaint he was sleeping in an abandoned home has now been identified as a suspect in the unsolved murder of an Orlando grandmother. Bobby Lee Story, 52, took off running when Tampa polic...
Published: 09/17/18