Sarasota hires first female police chief

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SARASOTA - The city has a new police chief, and for the first time ever, the chief is a woman. City manager Tom Barwin has tapped Bernadette DiPino to replace current chief Mikel Hollaway, who is retiring.

City manager Barwin made the announcement at a press conference Tuesday afternoon, crediting Chief DiPino's experience, passion, and leadership for making her the best fit for the job.

With over 27 years as a law enforcement officer, and a 4th generation police officer, DiPino says she bleeds blue. She's served as the Chief of the Ocean City Police Department for the last ten years, where she says she successfully implemented the community policing philosophy.

That philosophy is something city leaders have said all along that Sarasota's next police chief must embrace.

And now DiPino says she's ready to take on the challenge in Sarasota. “We are going to do everything we can to extend out our hand and build up that trust, and it takes time. I can't just stand up here and have you trust me because I say trust me; it's going to be about relationship building, it's going to be about communication…and I believe over time, our police department will gain that trust in the community and I'm going to do everything I can to make sure that happens.

DiPino's first day as Sarasota's police chief will be January 1st. Chief Hollaway has agreed to delay his retirement.

Before making the appointment, City Manager Barwin says he sought input from Sarasota Police Department officers and commanders, a citizen’s panel, commissioners, and other city leaders.

Chief DiPino serves on the International Association of Chiefs of Police representing the states of Maryland, Delaware and New Jersey. She also is a past president of the Maryland Chiefs of Police Association.

During her distinguished career, she has been honored with many professional recognitions and awards including the Chief of Police Award, Officer of the Year (three times), Citizen of the Year, Person of the Year, and Outstanding Performance of Duty.

She earned a Bachelor of Arts Degree in liberal studies from Salisbury State College.