ST. PETE BEACH, Fla. - For more than fifty years, the City of St. Pete Beach has had its own police department, including a mobile crime lab and marine unit. But yesterday, residents voted to go in a new direction.
"There are no sour grapes," said Chief David Romine.
Romine understands why voters elected to disband the Police Department and allow the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office to take over policing the island.
"This was not an issue of dissatisfaction of the police services, it was an economic issue," he explained.
The city stands to save well over one million dollars a year with the move.
"Of course I'm disappointed. But the bell's been rung, and the citizens have voted. And that's their decision, and I respect that decision," Romine said.
But not everyone is happy about it.
"I think it's a sad day for the city, as far as the police officers are concerned. We're going to miss them, and we really got to know them real well," said Tammy Collier. She owns a clothing store on Corey Ave.
But Margaret Bobel, who has lived on the island for twenty years, is willing to give the new arrangement a chance.
"It might be a big change, I don't know. I can't evaluate that until the Sheriff starts coming around," Bobel remarked.
Sheriff Bob Gualtieri says that members of St. Pete Beach P.D. will be offered positions with his department. And that his deputies will also have a sense of community.
"They're going to get a local feel. The deputies that are going to be assigned down there will be assigned on a permanent basis. They'll be working in St. Pete Beach regularly, they'll be responding to calls from within St. Pete Beach," Gualtieri said.
Romine wants people to take a positive approach to the new arrangement.
"You've got a new Sheriff in town, pun intended. With that in mind, develop a relationship with them," he said.
The Sheriff's office is expected to take over full-time law enforcement duties in St. Pete Beach some time around the first of the year.
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