Is Beach Police Department more trouble than its worth?

More and more Historic City News readers seem to be asking the same question about the dilemma over the St Augustine Beach Police Department since the resignation of Police Chief Richard Hedges and the FDLE investigation of the agency’s operations; questioned and reported by officers within the 17-man department.

Historic City News began a free facebook poll on our page asking what readers think about the need of small municipal departments within jurisdiction covered by the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office.

The beach has made an interim agreement with the Sheriff to provide a commander to stand in as Chief of Police until the investigation has concluded; a position that the commission is currently required to staff in accordance with the provisions of its charter.

Although the charter requires a Chief of Police, it does not require a Police Department; causing some to question the need for the department at all. In the past, both Robert D. Bissell and Edward C. Booth, Sr., served as Town Marshal of St Augustine Beach. The position was originally considered “part time employment”, and, for many years, they had no deputy. Former Chief Arnold M. Bandy was hired as a deputy marshal by Booth after the shooting death of Ronald Parker; the beach’s first deputy.

From the time of Bissell’s appointment until today, the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office has investigated crimes and answered calls for police service within the City of St Augustine Beach because it is situated within the county limits.

One St Augustine Beach resident, 70 year-old Edgar McGowan, wrote a letter to the editor on the topic that appeared in the St Augustine Record today.

Beach city doesn’t need police and sheriff patrols

Editor: I am still trying to figure out why we need two separate law enforcement agencies patrolling the beach and streets of the city of St. Augustine Beach. I have never paid real estate taxes to two agencies that shared the same jurisdiction. I think it is time for change, and a more judicious use of taxpayers’ dollars.

During the recent upheaval at the SABPD I was astonished to read that a senior officer from the sheriff’s department was put in charge of the SABPD. I served for 28 years in municipal government. When a department head, such as a police chief, was absent for any length of time his deputy or assistant took command. For what purpose does the present assistant chief of the SABPD exist? What exactly is his function? Very strange.

Take the free reader poll that asks the question:
Should municipal police departments merge with the Sheriff’s Office?

Share your thoughts with our readers >>