By Jay Meisel
PORT ST. LUCIE - None of the recent political controversy will detract from the Port St. Lucie Police Department doing its job, said John Bolduc, the man poised to become police chief.
The main responsibility of the police department is to improve the quality of life for Port St. Lucie residents by reducing crime and keeping them safe, he said.
"We're going to keep our focus on that," he said.
Mr. Bolduc, 48, will become police chief this month, provided the Port St. Lucie Council approves his contract, which includes an annual salary of $120,000. He has been serving as interim police chief since Police Chief Brian Reuther retired at the end of May.
Craig Novick, the candidate who was selected as chief following a nationwide search, withdrew because of the political atmosphere, Greg Oravec, city manager, said.
Mr. Oravec said he never got a detailed explanation from Mr. Novick as to why he turned down the position.
The controversy involved emails sent by Mayor Faiella to Victoria Huggins, a community activist and former candidate for mayor. Among other things, Mayor Faiella wrote in one email about setting up city attorney Roger Orr.
As a result of the emails, the city council censured Mayor Faiella. Meanwhile, Ms. Huggins made allegations that someone in the police department hacked into her email.
The investigation into that allegation continues, Chief Bolduc said.
Chief Bolduc said he doesn't believe those incidents have affected the police department in doing its job, he said. During the nearly 20 years he's worked at the police department, he's seen a lot of change and growth, he said. But the one constant, he said, is the police department has always stepped up and fulfilled its mission.
A native of Florida, Chief Bolduc grew up in Merritt Island. Although no one in his family worked in law enforcement, he wanted to enter the profession ever since he was young, he said.
He began his law enforcement career as a wildlife officer for the state and found that job to be enjoyable.
But he wanted a job with more stability and found that with the Port St. Lucie Police Department in August 1994, he said.
Starting out as a patrolman, he rose through the ranks, but said he never thought much about becoming police chief.
While he gave it some thought more recently, it wasn't on his mind when Mr. Oravec, invited him to lunch, he said.
When Mr. Oravec offered him the job, "I initially thought the city manager may be pulling my leg," he said.
But when he became convinced the offer was sincere, he said, "I was flattered and I accepted."
As chief, one of his priorities will be to build and strengthen community partnerships, he said.
Chief Bolduc said he believes the police department does a good job of fighting crime. That's evident in the city being ranked as the safest city in Florida of those with a population higher than 100,000.
Another immediate priority is hiring 26 new officers, a result of a reorganization that reduced the administration, he said.
Chief Bolduc said he believes the police department can do well with the reorganization.
The men and women of the police department are open to meeting new challenges resulting from the reorganization, he said.
With the recent controversy, some people have a misperception about how it affects the police department, Chief Bolduc said. The reality is it hasn't affected the police department, which is responsible to the city manager and not directly to the mayor and city council, he said.
The city council is responsible to the people, he said.
Another sign the controversy hasn't negatively impacted the department is that hundreds submitted applications for the police officer positions. And some are from other areas, Chief Bolduc said.
When asked if he would have been deterred from taking the job had he been someone from the outside reading news accounts of the controversy, Chief Bolduc said, "That's a loaded question."
He added that he couldn't give a response because he wasn't in that position and looking at it from that perspective.
The selection of Chief Bolduc was a turnabout from the original plans.
Mr. Oravec said he felt it was important to hire someone from the outside. However, in retrospect, he had thoughts even during the process of selecting from national candidates that Mr. Bolduc may have been the best choice.
"Over the course of time, I realized there was no better candidate than Mr. Bolduc," he said.
During the time Chief Bolduc served as assistant police chief and then interim police chief, he brought "a breath of fresh air" to the department and it was apparent he was committed to transparency, Mr. Oravec said.
Chief Bolduc has demonstrated a passion for the police department and serving the community and has displayed honesty and integrity, Mr. Oravec said.
He came to realize the person they were looking for was already in the organization, he said.
But even before the flap over recent emails from Mayor Faiella, there was controversy about decisions by police officers not to arrest a former assistant city attorney and a police officer, who was off duty, on driving under the influence charges.
That led to the city council firing former city administrator Jerry Bentrott and indicating to then- Chief Reuther that he should not seek the job back after retiring.
Chief Bolduc said in the wake of those controversies, he still believes police officers need some discretion.
He doesn't believe the public wants police officers to ticket everyone who goes slightly above the speed limit, he said.
And there will be some driving under the influence cases where a person is on the borderline of being or not being legally intoxicated, he said.
But in the cases that led to the controversy, police officers "showed a little too much courtesy and we got caught."
When the police department makes mistakes, "the most important thing is that we own up to them and fix them. I think both instances could have been handled better," he said.