Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

In Police Chief Hire, a Head-Scratcher

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

In Police Chief Hire, a Head-Scratcher

Article excerpt

The Herald-Tribune's account of Jim Carlino's years with the police department in Atlanta, including some internal affairs investigations, might have you thinking it was an iffy decision to make him chief of police at the Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport.

Or maybe not. Maybe nothing you read seems like a big deal. As Carlino says, any cop who makes arrests has complaints filed against him at times.

I'd call that a reasonable reaction to that brief newspaper report, actually. Still, that news report -- including the account of an intense feud and legal battle Carlino had with an Atlanta neighbor who accused him of harassment -- would make me want to dig deeper before deciding Lieutenant Carlino of the Atlanta Police Department was a good choice as airport chief.

What's surprising is that airport director Rick Piccolo hired him without having anyone look at Carlino's internal affairs files at all. Piccolo's people didn't just fail to dig deeper. They failed to do even the most routine checks. The biggest investigative action, it seems, was calling the people Carlino listed as references.

Piccolo learned what was in Carlino's files from a Herald- Tribune reporter just a few days ago, three years after he hired Carlino.

That would be weird enough if Carlino had been hired as a regular cop. But as chief?

Piccolo is acknowledging that things weren't done all that well. Kind of.

"I concede this: Maybe it could have been a little more thorough," Piccolo told me. But, he explained, the best procedures weren't in place in part because, "It's the only police chief hire we've done in the 16 years we've been here."

That's a strange thing for such a savvy and experienced airport CEO to say. There are so many local law enforcement people who could have advised him.

But it's not as strange as the other statement Piccolo made, first to a reporter and later to me, to explain why this casual approach wasn't so bad. Ready?

"We were hiring an administrator, not a street officer," Piccolo said. …

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