Published On: Thu, Sep 10th, 2020

Delray Police Brass Seeks to Become Next Chief in South Carolina Town

By C. Ron Allen

Delray Beach assistant police Chief Gene Sapino is one of four finalists for the top cop’s job in Bluffton, South Carolina.

The four were whittled from a list of more than 100 applicants spanning 30 states.

The $106,000 a year job became vacant when the former police Chief Chris Chapmond returned to become the chief in his hometown of Hot Springs, Arkansas. Chapmond previously served for 22 years in Hot Springs, including the latter two years as assistant chief. The Town of Bluffton is looking to hire its fourth chief in as many years. 

Sapino said, if hired, he plans to make Bluffton his new home for a long time. 

“Leadership is key, and my plans are to stay there,” he told The Island Packet newspaper in Hilton Head. “I’m not using it as a stepping stone.”

Some town officials say they would like to see their police department reflect the town’s diversity. According to the latest Census, Hispanics make up 15.5 percent of Bluffton’s 27,495 residents, and nearly 8 percent are blacks. Bluffton has as many residents as Greenacres.

Sapino, with his more than 25 years of law enforcement experience, said he is ready for the challenge. He witnessed his agency increase its minority representation over the years, and as an assistant chief, was instrumental in it reflecting the community.

The 66-officer Bluffton police department mirrors Delray Beach police department in many ways. Bluffton is a very progressive police department, which uses social media effectively, Sapino told the newspaper.

“They do outreach in the community. They give virtual ride-alongs,” he said. “They’re doing all the things we do.”

He promised that under his watch, his agency would not be a haven for rejects from other departments, a practice that has plagued the Bluffton police agency in the past.

“We do not take employees with substantial baggage,” Sapino told the newspaper. “We vet them thoroughly before they become a police officer.”

He added that he would strive for excellence and professionalism.

“The people of the town deserve that,” he said. “I would do everything I can to gain the trust of not only the citizens but of the (officers).”

Known for several art galleries, Bluffton is between Interstate 95 and Hilton Head Island. In 2018, SafeWise listed Bluffton as the fourth safest municipality in South Carolina, and in 2019 The Home Security Advisor named it the safest municipality in the state.

Town manager Marc Orlando said he hopes to hire his chief by mid-September.

The other finalists are Ricky Pinksaw, chief of police in Emporia, Virginia; Stephenie Price, assistant chief of police of the Savannah Police Department and Michael Ricks, program director for criminal justice technology at the Technical College of the Lowcountry, in Beaufort, South Carolina. Ricks also served as chief of police for the Moss Point, Mississippi, and Tuskegee, Alabama, police departments.  

C. Ron Allen can be reached at [email protected] or 561-665-0151.

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