HBPD introduces new sergeants, new direction

Holmes Beach Police Chief Bill Tokajer introduced newly promoted Sgt. Mike Pilato and Sgt. Vern McGowin to the city commission May 14.

McGowin began his law enforcement career in 1988 in Alabama before taking a job with the Palmetto Police Department in 1992.

He joined the Holmes Beach Police Department in 1997 and is one of the department’s Coast Guard captains, as well as a senior officer on the dive team.

He has received advanced training as a field-training officer, and in middle management and is one of the department’s firearms instructors.

Pilato began his law enforcement career in 1996 in Texas, where he worked for eight years before joining the HBPD in 2004.

He has received advanced training as an instructor with specialties in firearms, armorer and firearms instruction. Pilato also is a department Coast Guard captain and senior officer of the dive team.

Tokajer said Pilato has received advanced training as a field-training officer, and in middle management and line supervision.

Tokajer also presented Officer Joshua Fleischer to the commission, as a recipient of the Congressional Law Enforcement Preservation of Life Award. Fleischer received the award in a presentation of law enforcement awards by U.S. Rep. Vern Buchannan May 13 for his quick actions in saving the life of a Holmes Beach man overdosing on drugs in November 2012.

Thanks to his actions, the man went on to make a full recovery.

Tokajer also introduced two newly hired members of the department. Kevin Powers started patrol duty May 20 and Mike Dinius to be the department’s dispatch supervisor. He will begin work May 27.

As part of the May 14 city commission proceedings, Mayor Carmel Monti presented a proclamation announcing May 13-17 as National Police Week.

May 15 was National Peace Officer’s Memorial Day.

“There were 72 officers feloniously killed in the line of duty in 2011 nationwide,” said Tokajer. “There were 47 killed in 2012. In Florida, there were 14 officers killed in 2011. There were five killed last year. We are praying those numbers continue to go down.”

As part of a new city policy, each department is required to present the commission with a monthly report, Tokajer’s detailed report received praise from commissioners.

April arrests included six for battery, two beverage law arrests, four driver’s license arrests, three DUIs, one resisting arrest without violence, one violation of a no-contact order and one warrant arrest.

The department issued 27 citations, 33 written warnings and addressed 15 noise complaints in April. Eight of the 15 complaints proved to be unfounded.

The department received eight citizen commendations in April.

To help improve the ongoing rental noise complaints, Tokajer has provided the city’s rental agents with a good neighbor policy outlining the agents’ responsibilities.

Chair Jean Peelen asked Tokajer what the policies and procedures were in addressing noise complaints.

Tokajer said his officers have decibel meters and he has begun a new policy in separating noise complaints that are legitimate and those that are not to give the city a better idea as to the actual problem.

“We’ve broken them down into two categories,” said Tokajer. “If it is a city violation, it’s reported as a violation. If no noise is heard when the officer arrives, it’s listed as an information report. We also are working up a policy of enforcement.”

Tokajer said the policy would include fining violators, but also fining rental agents if they are not adopting the good neighbor policy of informing renters of the noise ordinance.

Tokajer said it can be difficult to track the problem with new renters revolving in and out of the city, but if the same problem persist in the same rental units, then it may be a rental agent is not doing his or her job.

“We’ve sent a flier to every rental agent outlining the good neighbor policy,” he said.

The flier explains the noise ordinance and that a first offense carries a $500 penalty. Each subsequent fine is $1,000.

The flier also explains beach policies: no pets, no glass and no open fires.

Vehicle burglaries are a problem on the island, especially during tourist season, so Tokajer outlined vehicle safety tips for agents to pass on to renters.

Tips include locking vehicles, keeping valuables in the vehicle trunk and hiding garage door openers to prevent thieves a means to access homes.

Other safety tips include a reminder to never leave a pet locked in an unattended vehicle and to ensure drivers check for “no parking” signs when parking in the city.

Everyone is asked to report suspicious vehicles and/or persons within the city by calling 941-708-5807 or 911 in the event of an emergency.

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