Marco Island’s decision to remove police chief causes controversy

“Keep the chief.” That’s the demand from some neighbors on Marco Island after the interim city manager asked Chief Al Schettino to resign. Marco Island Police Department has been in the hot seat multiple times after reports of harassment and officers having sex on the job. For one city council member, he believes that is not the right message for some locals have.

If you drive around Marco Island, you can’t miss the signs that call for the city to keep Schettino in his position as chief of Marco Island police. After Schettino was asked to resign, community members went to city chambers in his defense Monday.

“I’m here tonight in support of our chief of police,” Yvette Bennaroch said.

The chambers were packed, overflowing into the back room. Public speakers stood at the dais, the majority telling council they want to keep their police chief.

Schettino’s wife also spoke on record at the meeting in an emotional speech, the two embracing one another and crying afterward.

One man took the stand supporting the decision to have Schettino resign to opposing boos.

The interim city manager said he doesn’t believe the police chief can recover from what he called embarrassing revelations in the department over the last several months.

“I think he is responsible for some of the things that happened,” said David Harden, interim city manager. “The roots of it may go back prior to his tenure. But nevertheless, he’s responsible for decisions he’s made during his tenure as chief.”

Council members are prohibited from participating in any personnel decision, but Councilman Larry Honig said he supports what the city manager did.

“Keep the chief” signs mean that you’re satisfied with having a police department that is not under supervision by the city manager,” Honig said. “That you’re OK with a police department that sets its own rules.”

No matter what, Harden said his decision is final. Schettino’s last day will be Saturday, June 15 on his tenth anniversary year. The search for the next chief is on.

But those signs stand firmly in community member’s lawns all over the island.

“He’s doing the job,” Louis Priggie said. “The police are happy, and I don’t know what the problem is.”

 

Reporter:Hannah Vogel
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