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Eatonville Police HQ Gets Renovations as Search for Chief Continues

January 21, 2013 | WMFE - Eatonville's police department is getting some renovations, but there's one thing the squad room still doesn't have...a permanent police chief. The former chief resigned in mid-2011 after a failed attempt by some town council members to oust him, and Eatonville's leaders say they're still looking for the right replacement.

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[Image: Eatonville's officials pose with volunteers outside the Public Safety Complex]

About seventy volunteers converged on Eatonville’s Public Safety Complex building Friday. Inside, they were painting walls, laying tile and putting up cubicles. Outside, they touched up the landscaping with new mulch and assembled picnic benches. The project also included work on the nearby Denton Johnson Community Center.

The undertaking was a joint effort between several organizations: Rebuilding Together, a non-profit that repairs homes and community facilities when funds are scarce; students from Florida's free veterans' training program at the Home Building Institute; and the Fortune 100 technology company Honeywell.

Interim Police Chief Joseph Jenkins says town leaders and residents are thankful, and the upgrades are boosting morale.

“The officers have a much nicer area to work in now,” Jenkins says. “They can come to work and smile and be happy to be here, and work in comfort, and have space to do what they need to do to protect the citizens of Eatonville.” 

Jenkins says fifteen sworn officers work shifts in the Public Safety Complex, along with four reserve officers, code enforcement personnel, and administrative staff.

“It’s important to have your environment that you come to work in conducive to the attitude that you want to display out on the street,” says Jenkins.

Jenkins, a police captain, stepped in as Interim Chief after former Chief Joseph Brown resigned in August 2011. Eatonville Mayor Bruce B. Mount, who was also on hand for the Public Safety Complex upgrade, says he knows it’s been a long search for a permanent chief, but it’s too important a job to rush.

“I feel that ‘Chief’ is not a position that you could pick quickly, because that’s the backbone of your community and your public safety,” says Mount. “So, it has to be someone that we feel that has a good fit for the community.”

Eatonville officials say they’ve chosen a few candidates after a nationwide search, and they expect to start the interview process in a few weeks. 

Mount also expressed gratitude for the Public Safety Complex and community center improvements. “With the economy, we talk about doing more with less,” he said. “So in order to do more with less, it’s collaboration, it’s partnerships. And I think this shows that things can be done if we just get together and do it.”

Eatonville is known as the country’s first incorporated African-American municipality and as the hometown of folklorist, anthropologist, and author Zora Neale Hurston.


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