By Steve Plunkett
Richard Jones is leaving his job as Ocean Ridge’s police chief to take the same post in nearby Gulf Stream.
Gulf Stream town commissioners approved the new hire on Feb. 10. His month-old contract with Ocean Ridge requires him to give up to 90 days’ notice, Jones said.
“I have already started to look for a replacement to fill the position that I am vacating so I can move that process along as quickly as possible,” he said. “I could potentially start sooner depending on what type of replacement I have and what kind of transition we think is necessary.”
Jones, who wore a business suit to the Gulf Stream meeting rather than a uniform, said he would solve the problem of recurrent vacancies in Gulf Stream’s 14-officer police force by building morale and making it “the go-to law enforcement agency in the county.”
“We should be the agency that everyone else is looking to, not only to see what we’re doing operationally and with our vision, but also what we’re doing with our technology and how we treat our staff,” he said.
He would boost morale, he said, “through a method that I believe in — being a worker, not just a police chief.”
“I believe in putting my feet on the ground and doing what I ask my officers to do, to demonstrate to them that I’m with them every step of the way. … It makes them realize that there’s value in their leader and I’m not asking them anything that I’m not willing to do.”
Jones, whose duties in Ocean Ridge include being police chief for Briny Breezes, also said he would be proactive in recruiting and expand Gulf Stream’s searches for potential hires to military veterans and law enforcement agencies beyond the local area.
Commissioners unanimously approved Jones’ hiring.
“We’re delighted to have you and congratulations on your appointment,” Commissioner Thom Smith said.
Mayor Scott Morgan said he spoke with Ocean Ridge Mayor Susan Hurlburt “and while they are sorry to lose him, she could not have been more enthusiastic in her praise of his skill, his vision, his energy, his administrative skills and his ability to take Gulf Stream, as she said, and move our police department legitimately into the 21st century.”
Ocean Ridge gave Jones a three-year contract on Jan. 9 after he had been its chief more than 16 months. His pay there was $115,763 a year. His salary in Gulf Stream will be negotiated.
Ed Allen, his predecessor in Gulf Stream, announced in early December that he would leave the department on Jan. 31. Allen, who worked in Gulf Stream almost 35 years, was paid $143,771.
Jones started the week by persuading the Ocean Ridge Town Commission on Feb. 6 to approve one-time pay raises and benefits increases for his 15 officers for the rest of the year to attract more officers and retain current ones. Jones made the request after compiling a survey that showed Ocean Ridge’s officers made drastically less in salary, benefits and health insurance than other coastal police forces in Palm Beach County.
Each officer will get a $7,500 salary bump the rest of the year, a $5,000 lump-sum vehicle reimbursement payment and a 50% health insurance match. Money for the changes will come from $213,186 that was freed up by freezing two vacancies.
Joe Capozzi contributed to this report.