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Big scandal puts small force in spotlight

A small-town police force with only 15 sworn officers, the Inverness Police Department recently has been thrust into the international spotlight.

Reporters from around the world have publicized the department each day for nearly a month, airing new details about Bruce Alan Young and the scandal that has rocked Citrus Memorial Hospital.

"We've been much busier than normal," said Inverness police Chief Bill Vitt. "We'd like to get back to the good old quiet days. But sometimes I wonder if it'll ever happen."

There was a time when the biggest news that came out of the Inverness Police Department dealt with traffic tickets, neighborhood quarrels and conflicts within the department.

Nowadays, it is not uncommon to see Vitt being interviewed on Cable News Network about the registered nurse who is feared to have sexually assaulted close to 100 female patients while they were under anesthesia at Citrus Memorial between 1990 and 1994.

Inverness police officers have gotten used to a parking lot filled with news crews, frequent phone calls from sensational talk show producers, and halls of the department flooded with distraught women.

So much has changed.

Vitt believes this is another example of big city crime that has reached a small, growing community.

"I see it as a barometer to the fact that Inverness and Citrus County is growing up in population and crime," Vitt said. "That's a natural thing to happen as we grow."

Because the types of crimes Inverness police officers deal with have changed, Vitt has worked to alter the way crimes and criminal investigations are handled.

Since returning as chief of police in December, Vitt has taken steps to upgrade the department's image, increase the staff and improve officers' training.

Each week, Inverness police officers must take two hours of training in a martial art known as Ju-Ki-Do. Recently, they completed a four-week course on making life-and-death decisions taught by Marion County sheriff's deputies.

At least four non-sworn officers soon will be hired for an innovative community service program that will make sworn officers more effective. The community service officers will handle non-emergency calls while sworn officers conduct in-depth criminal investigations.

On top of everything else that is going on at the Police Department, the wheels have been put in motion to form a long-overdue neighborhood watch program, Vitt said.

"Our mission is to give the citizens of Inverness a feeling of safety and security," he said.

"We're not going to be able to stop crime totally, but if we do our job properly and we're trained properly, we won't be overrun by crime.

"As far as this Bruce Young situation is concerned, I've told my officers that there's going to be life after this case. Right now it's all-consuming, but there will come a time when it will end."