Tuesday, October 26, 2021

Personnel problems plague PD

By Coastal Breeze News Staff

For a relatively small police department of 33 full-time officers, 2012 was a turbulent year of personnel changes, with several high-ranking officers resigning, lawsuits against the City and a slate of junior officers joining the force.

Matt Goetz and Pete Beucler’s careers developed within the Marco Island Police Deparment, but effectively ended this month due to an internal investigation. In June of 2012, an anonymous report alleged that Lt. Buecler had sent a photo of his “unclothed physique” to a female officer while both were off-duty. What was characterized as a “frat boy prank” by the female officer has now jeopardized the careers of both Beucler and Goetz. Buecler resigned from the department immediately, but was rehired later by the City, thus prompting a formal review of the case.

Results of the review were handed down last week. According to a department statement, the female officer had sought assistance with the incident from a fellow officer, who reported it to Lt. Matt Goetz. The investigation concluded that Goetz didn’t bring the incident to the attention of his supervisors, and that Beucler was found to have sent another provocative image.

According to the department, officers would face progressive discipline and/or demotion in such a scenario. While Goetz was not directly involved in taking or circulating the photograph, he chose to resign in lieu of accepting a demotion.

Buecler, who was the Policeman of the Year in 2008, is currently working as a civilian city employee, and is now under review. “This is not the conduct the department, or the community expects from its officers, and everybody cringes when we talk about it, but I’m also going to point out that Pete imposed his own discipline. He’s lost his pension and given up all rank,” explains Assistant Chief Dave Baer, who is now serving as the department’s Public Relations Officer.

Goetz will remain an unpaid reserve officer. It’s a position that serves a vital function within the department, according to Baer. The Marco PD uses the volunteer manpower of both reserve and auxiliary officers, especially during community events such as parades, Halloween and the 4thof July fireworks. Because reserve officer have the same qualifications as full-time officers, “they add a lot of value economically because they can take the place of full-time officers.”

The interesting question is why a dismissed officer would want to continue top articipate. According to Baer, the bite of the police bug is harder to shake than your average job. “If you’ve been in law enforcement for 15, 20 years, you may find the urge to serve supersedes what some might characterize as a negative experience.” While this may be true, the more curious question is why the Police Department imposes such severe punishment but then continues to retain its officers.

Ed D’Alessandro is another such example within the Police Department. Terminated in 2011 after an on-duty crash in which his license was suspended for three months, D’Alessandro now works as an unpaid reserve officer as well as running his firearms business, Castle Keep. After his termination, D’Alessandro filed a grievance against the City regarding the way in which he was let go. The City settled with D’Alessandro before the case went into arbitration, and instead, accepted his retirement as of his termination date and payed him $10,000.

In August 2012, another actively serving officer, John Derrig, filed a civil rights lawsuit against both the City of Marco Island and the former police chief who fired him, Thom Carr. Derrig was terminated in December of 2010 for insubordination and failure to accurately report an arrest. The specific case involved a young man who accused Derrig of beating him up in a bar’s bathroom. Derrig was terminated for not turning on a recording device he was wearing. According to court records, Derrig was, “a high performing officer according to a former supervisor but loose cannon by other accounts, whose aggressive style has endeared himself neither to the Employer nor to a number of citizens.” Nonetheless, the arbitrator found that the department had failed to prove insubordination and showed a lack of explicit warnings to Derrig, who was given his job back in January, 2012. His civil rights lawsuit against the City and Carr is currently active.

City attorney, Burt Saunders, had this to say regarding his overall strategy towards lawsuits in general that the City now faces: “The City has become a target because it has been forced into settlements [in the past]… We intend to vigorously defend those lawsuits that should not be settled and send a message to the legal community that if you take a case against the City you’d better have a good case because it’s not going to be forced into an unreasonable settlement.”

Baer expresses frustrations with the extensive internal affairs issues the department has handled. “When we find out about misconduct, we react and take the appropriate action… but as a small agency we have to conserve our resources. We use our people to investigate and it’s a travesty because we’re diverting resources [from resolving crime] to investigating our own people.” Which begs the question, if “appropriate action” is being taken, why the lawsuits?

In 2012 a slate of new officers joined the Marco PD:

A Florida native, Officer Josh Ferris began his law enforcement career in 2011. He has attended training in critical incident response, human trafficking, and drug identification.

Also from Florida, Officer Steve Gaskill began his service in 2010 as a member of the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office. He has received advanced training in speed measurement devices, tactical rifle deployment and elder abuse.

Officer Mike Vogel is a United States Air Force veteran who hails from Maine. Mike has over twelve year’s experience and is a former K-9 Officer.

Officer Zach Kirsh has served the citizens of Pennsylvania as a Police Officer since 2006. Officer Kirsh has received advance training in responding to school emergencies, auto theft and DUI enforcement.

A six-year veteran of Michigan law enforcement, Officer Kyle Kreis has attended advanced training in police emergency driving, speed measurement devices and interviews and interrogations.

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