Briny Breezes: Briny rehires Ocean Ridge police, drops Boynton

By Dan Moffett

 Briny Breezes’ three-year partnership with the Boynton Beach Police Department ended Thursday afternoon and a longstanding relationship with Ocean Ridge was restarted.

 The Town Council voted not to renew its law enforcement contract with Boynton and instead approved hiring Ocean Ridge, whose department had provided services to Briny for 33 of the last 36 years.

 “It was our history of working with Ocean Ridge,” said Councilwoman Christina Adams about her vote to make the switch. “I think it’s about Ocean Ridge knowing the uniqueness of Briny.”

Adams said cost was also a factor. Ocean Ridge proposed charging Briny $180,000 for the first year of the three-year contract, which officially begins Oct. 1, and Boynton Beach wanted $219,000.

The vote was 3-1, with Council President Sue Thaler absent with notice. Councilman Bill Birch voted for Boynton Beach. He said he intended to vote for Ocean Ridge but erroneously marked his ballot.

 “Response time was important to me,” Councilman Kathy Gross said. “I think Ocean Ridge’s is very good.”

During a presentation to the council, Ocean Ridge Police Chief Hal Hutchins said his department was prepared to offer Briny a “concierge level of community-based policing” and have officers patrol the town with a low-speed electric vehicle to discourage trespassing and parking violations — two issues that residents have complained about for months.

Hutchins said, since his officers last policed the town in 2016, the department has enhanced its use of technology and also added license plate recognition cameras. He said the department has its own dispatchers and its average response time on emergency calls is about three minutes.

Boynton Beach Police Chief Michael Gregory, a former assistant chief with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department who took his current job a year ago, said his large and growing agency — with 155 sworn officers compared with Ocean Ridge’s 19 — had a full range of law enforcement resources to offer Briny.

“We’re like a Swiss army knife,” Gregory told the council, citing marine, K-9, SWAT, computer crime investigation and lab capabilities.

“We have the resources which means we don’t have to ask for them,” Gregory said. “We can respond quickly with what we need and that can mean everything.”

 But size didn’t matter to the council. Ocean Ridge’s proximity and the price tag did.

 “They’re our neighbor and they’re right next door,” Councilman Chick Behringer said. “It’s really like they never left.”

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