OCEAN CITY — With the clock ticking on Ocean City Police Chief Bernadette DiPino’s tenure as head of the department, resort officials are now undertaking the process of finding her replacement, which will include a national search but could result in an internal promotion.
DiPino is set to officially retire from the OCPD on Dec. 1 and will begin her duties as the chief of police in Sarasota on Jan. 1. While DiPino’s departure did not catch town officials by surprise after she announced earlier this year she would take advantage of the city’s early retirement, or drop, program, the process to find her replacement was expedited somewhat when she accepted to Sarasota position in October after being named one of the five finalists for the job.
Almost immediately after DiPino announced she had accepted the Sarasota position, Ocean City officials said they would likely initiate a national search to find her replacement. With the town election in the books and a new-look council in place, it now appears Ocean City elected officials are ready to expedite the police chief search process.
“We haven’t made a final determination, but we are likely going to move forward with a national search,” Mayor Rick Meehan said this week. “There should be no shortage of applicants. The last time around, when we ultimately hired Bernadette from within, we had around 160 applicants for the position. We haven’t determined the process, but we will review all qualified applicants including some of the dedicated and talented people we have in the department already.”
Just who leads and manages the department remains to be seen although city officials appear poised to follow a similar pattern with recent department head hirings including the city manager position. Clearly, there are qualified officers in the department to fill the vacancy and there is a long precedent for hiring from within, but the Mayor and Council will likely cast a wide net to find the best candidate.
Meanwhile, an almost immediate decision for town leaders will be naming an interim chief. With DiPino scheduled to end her term in just two weeks and a national search and interview process expected to take weeks or even months, someone will be appointed acting chief shortly, according to Meehan, who covertly suggested a decision might have already been made.
“That has been discussed although I don’t think that’s been announced,” he said. “In the interim, we’re certainly going to work with the captains we have and make that decision very shortly, probably by the end of the month.”
The OCPD command structure was revised earlier this year with a three-captain format adopted representing each of the department’s three divisions: patrol, support services and criminal investigation. The three current captains include Kevin Kirstein, who joined the department in 1980 and was appointed captain in 2004; Michael Colbert, who joined the department 1988 and was appointed captain in 2006; and Greg Guiton, 1 25-year veteran who was appointed captain last January.
Regardless of who emerges as the acting chief in DiPino’s absence and the ultimate decision following the national search, the process will be expedited, according to Meehan.
“We’re going to compress that process to some degree,” he said. “The goal is to have the new chief in place before next summer and as early as possible.”