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Kenneth City hires new police chief

KENNETH CITY — This town's new police chief says he's going to concentrate on building bridges and relationships with other departments across Pinellas.

Kenneth City needs to be part of the larger community and work with the Sheriff's Office and other municipal police departments, Michael F. Rossi said Monday.

"I truly believe that what's going to move us forward is having that bond between the cities and the Sheriff's Office," Rossi said. "I think that's the key to the success of the Kenneth City Police Department."

Vice Mayor Troy Campbell, the council member who oversees the Police Department, said he was most impressed by Rossi's commitment to training and to working with other departments. Just because the Kenneth City department is small, with only 11 officers, doesn't mean it can't be among the best, he said. Campbell said he believes Rossi can move the department in that direction.

"We both share the vision that we don't want to be this little black hole all to ourselves," Campbell said. The town must have good working relationships with other departments because "crime doesn't start and stop in Kenneth City."

Rossi, 48, is a native of Long Island, N.Y., who moved to Pasco County when he was 15. He has lived there ever since. He holds a bachelor of science degree in criminal justice from Florida Metropolitan University, now Tampa College. He began his career as an officer with the Port Richey Police Department and moved to the Pasco County Sheriff's Office in August 1995. He retired in May 2011 as a lieutenant.

While there, he received two meritorious service awards, one for catching two armed robbery and kidnapping suspects while the crime was happening. The other was for overseeing the largest hiring of new recruits in the department's history. He was also selected deputy of the year for reducing response times for deputies and dispatchers.

He is married and has two daughters. He will earn about $63,500 a year as chief.

Rossi is scheduled to be sworn in tonight after the Town Council workshop at Community Hall, 4600 58th St. N. The workshop begins at 7 p.m.

Although Rossi will be sworn in tonight, his actual starting date is unclear. But when he does take over, he will assume control of a department that has a history of turmoil and of being the battleground between political factions in the town.

Most recently, former Chief Doug Pasley was accused of poor management. Mayor Teresa Zemaitis called in the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office in 2011 to perform an undercover investigation of the department. Sheriff's investigators cited problems with the quality of leadership, but many residents dismissed those findings and criticized Zemaitis. Pasley survived the controversy but took early retirement in June.

Town officials advertised for a replacement and received 13 resumes.

Their first choice for chief was Michael Baute, a special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. But negotiations fell through when the sides could not agree on a compensation package.

They turned to Rossi, who was the second-highest rated of the applicants, and were able to reach a deal.

Anne Lindberg can be reached at alindberg@tampabay.com or (727) 893-8450.

Kenneth City hires new police chief 10/23/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, October 23, 2012 3:52pm]
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