We live in one of the most wonderful places in our nation. Our environment, the white sandy beaches, the extraordinary climate, the outstanding mix of differing cultures, professional backgrounds and the great assortment of activities make this a true paradise.
We all come from different backgrounds, geographical areas, religious persuasions and have varying interests in life. Some love golf, cycling, bridge, tennis and a variety of other activities.
I’ve always believed that living in this wonderland we call home adds a minimum of a decade to our lifetimes. It gives us a feeling of euphoria and a renewed love of everything that is special in life, it’s a shame not everyone shares that love of life.
I guess that is why I can’t believe how unhappy some can be that live amongst us. Negativity can spread almost as fast as the plagues did in Europe and Asia and saw millions of people perish.
I look around me and see so many men and women that give back so much within our community. They volunteer in so many wonderful charities and organizations around the island. They make sure the hungry are fed, the beaches are kept clean, our elderly are looked after, the historical nature of our island is preserved, visitors are welcomed at our Chamber of Commerce, our First Responders are supported, patients are met and assisted at our health care center and so many other projects and endeavors.
It is terrible therefore to watch as some wallow in a swamp full of hate and negative attacks on others, and a clandestine owner of websites whose whole purpose in life is to spread hate and discontent throughout the island does so with impunity.
Politicians are supposed to commit their best efforts for the public good, not to carry out a crusade of disinformation and repulsive attacks on our public servants and citizens for their own political gain or that of those they are fronting for.
For 42 years Al Schettino has worn a badge. He has taken an oath to serve and protect those within the communities he has lived in. During the last ten years he has done that for the community of Marco Island and earned your respect.
He has done it with great distinction and pride and loves the community he lives in with his wife and daughter. They can often be seen out within that community he has adopted as his own, and the support and respect that Schettino has is quickly evident as he says hello to those he meets at events and on the street.
In 2014 when former Chief Don Hunter left that position it was Schettino who was tapped to assume the interim role for the next six months. The department was in disarray, turnover was at epic high rates and morale was extremely low. Schettino took on the hard job of trying to evaluate what was needed and implement a plan to move forward.
Both he and the former city manager engaged in moving the department more into “community policing.” Having officers engage more with the public and less behind closed windows in cruisers running down the street at 35mph. Like all change it was an adjustment for most. There remained a core group of officers who would choose to resist change, but change would come and many within the community would appreciate it.
Another challenge would lay in the reorganization of the duties of officers and evaluations of their effectiveness. The States Attorney’s Office would make Schettino aware of an officer who they had placed on their “Brady List,” some time ago. This list is found throughout state and across the nation. It would identify officers that were found to be untruthful regarding one or more cases.
Unfortunately, for the department this officer never had appropriate discipline applied within the 180 days prescribed by the Officer’s Bill of Rights as detailed in Chapter 112 of the Florida State Statutes.
Schettino inherited this problem, but unlike his predecessors he immediately opened an internal affairs investigation, which resulted in a finding against the officer, but no action was allowed due to the expiration of the time limit under Chapter 112. To Schettino’s credit, once it was brought to his attention, he immediately removed the officer from the Investigation Bureau to protect the integrity of other cases under their jurisdiction and returned him to patrol; Schettino’s hands were tied. He had even gone as far as inquiring of Florida Police Standards and Training as to why his certifications were not pulled, but they deferred any action. Schettino would of course be blamed for it in the media and by some on council.
Fast forward to officers that were found to be involved with a young woman regarding unprofessional conduct and we find Schettino immediately acting to open an investigation regarding those incidents when they came to his and his staff’s attention. It wasn’t a pleasant situation, as it involved officer’s tarnishing the reputation of the entire department. It did see officers suffer the maximum consequences for their actions, both professionally and personally.
The department is still dealing with the sensitive nature of this issue and attempting to assist the family that has been decimated as they attempt to rebuild and help a family member. It did make great fodder for a news writer and that clandestine website. It was used to bring great embarrassment to Schettino and his department for their own ulterior motives.
It is unfortunate that others are attempting to ruin the reputation of a fine professional and a good department. A department that has had some problems but is being put in order by a man who can’t be bought or have his integrity impugned.
Residents are taking notice and demanding that the wrong against Chief Schettino be righted. But when the residents speak their minds, they find they are being bullied and attacked by a sitting city councilor.
I don’t believe they are going quietly into the night, nor do I think they should. I am proud to say that I support Chief Schettino.