Tonight, the City of St Augustine Beach will hold a special commission meeting with only one item on the agenda — a discussion of matters related to the future for the controversial St Augustine Beach Police Department.
Since May, the police department has been beleaguered with poor morale, a criminal investigation of the suspended chief — who has since resigned, accusations against the assistant chief by his subordinate officers, both an FDLE investigation and an internal affairs investigation, and the assignment of a Regional Chief from the St Johns County Sheriff’s Office to stand-in until the dust settles at the 17-officer department.
On the agenda:
• Summary by Mayor Snodgrass of events to date
• Review of city charter and options for law enforcement services
• Discussion of alternative proposal for law enforcement services
• Citizen comment concerning options for the police department’s future
• Commission discussion and decisions concerning options and next step(s)
In an unscientific reader poll conducted by Historic City News, facebook readers who expressed an opinion voted 48% in favor of merging the St Augustine Beach Police into the Sheriff’s Office — the largest single response. 33% said merge the St Augustine Beach Police and the St Augustine Police into the Sheriff’s Office and only 19% said to continue to maintain the separate departments.
Even with three-to-one against maintaining what some readers characterized as a “rouge bunch of cops”, Mayor Gary Snodgrass seems intent on keeping the department operating; albeit in a more scaled-down version.
The city’s charter specifically requires a “Chief of Police” and allows, but does not require, police patrolmen. For years, the Sheriff’s Office has provided law enforcement services and support throughout the city; which is within the jurisdiction of St Johns County. Some expressed concerns that this represented double taxation to city residents for police services, while others say they have grown accustomed or otherwise like the idea of their own police department at the beach.
Since a referendum would be required to modify the city charter to allow the dissolution of the position of “Chief of Police”, most residents are expecting some blended solution ultimately to be adopted by the commission.
If you plan to attend, the special meeting will convene tonight, Monday, July 16, at 7:00 p.m. in the St Augustine Beach City Commission Meeting Room located at 2200 A1A South in St Augustine Beach.