Cape police chief to retire June 25
In just over one month, Cape Coral Police Chief Rob Petrovich will hand over the baton and hope that he is leaving behind a legacy of making a difference for the better.
“I hope I’m remembered as someone who cared, who tried to do the best he could,” he said.
Petrovich, hired as a Cape patrol office in 1984, will retire June 25 after serving the city for 26 years. A graduate of the FBI National Academy and the Police Executive Research Forum Senior Management Institute, he was promoted to a deputy chief in 2002 before he took over as chief in 2006.
Enrolled for about three years in the deferred retirement option plan or DROP, Petrovich said his retirement had been in the works for “a while.” Initially, his goal was to retire in June after one son graduated from high school, but that date was pushed back to the end of 2009, he explained.
“Finally, I said to myself, ‘If I make it to June,'” Petrovich said.
“I’m young enough, or old enough,” he added with a laugh. “I’m 57.”
Petrovich is looking forward to spending more time with his family, which includes a 9-year-old son. He said he has “missed out on a lot” during his 26 years in law enforcement. Petrovich added that he would like to travel more and could become more involved at his church, which is in the Cape.
“Have some time to do other things that I haven’t had a chance to do,” he said.
Petrovich said his family is “very supportive” of his decision to retire, but people have asked him if he is going to regret it. Enough people have shared their stories of fortune after retirement, though, that he feel comfortable.
“It’s a big decision, and it’s not one I take lightly, but it’s my decision,” Petrovich said. “I feel I was welcome to stay if I chose to.”
During his tenure, the Cape Coral Police Department has experienced its ups and downs. The drop in the city’s crime rate is one positive Petrovich named.
“One of the things is that Cape Coral’s crime rate has gone down over the years,” he said. “Not just because of me but because of the men and women here at the department.”
The department’s record-making accreditation status is also a plus for him.
“We continue to be a nationally accredited agency and we’re considered a flagship agency,” Petrovich said. “Basically, what they’re saying is, ‘You’re the best of the best.'”
He added that the construction of the new police building is also a highlight.
“That was certainly an accomplishment in itself,” he said. “And it will serve the community for years to come.”
For the downs during his tenure, Petrovich cited the economy and a reduced budget. The CCPD is currently authorized at 239 positions compared to the 281 sworn officers the department once had available under its budget.
“We lost 42 authorized positions,” he said. “That’s a significant impact on things that you could be doing.”
According to Petrovich, the department no longer has designated units set aside for domestic violence and youth crime, and the agency has had to cut back on investigating white-collar and economic crimes due to budget cuts.
“There’s a lot of proactive things that I would like to continue, but because of the tough times, we can’t,” he said.
Having one officer injured and a dispatcher pass away under his watch were also hard moments, Petrovich explained. Officer Damien Garcia was critically injured while working patrol when his motorcycle collided with an SUV in 2009.
“That was quite painful for us, especially myself as a police chief,” he said. “It hurts when you lose people.”
As for the CCPD’s future, Petrovich would like to see it stay the course.
“I think this department is a world-class flagship agency,” he said. “I hope it continues on to hold that reputation and ranking, if you will, because if you achieve that, it’s sort of like the Good Housekeeping Seal of approval.”
Petrovich added that he hopes the right person takes up the baton, too.
“I hope that this person remembers the importance of the people who work here at this department,” he said.
Petrovich, who earned the chief title from, a pool of three applicants, said he never anticipated making it to the top of the ladder. Before moving to the Cape, he had worked as a corrections officer in New York and was a certified police officer. He simply “went through different assignments and ranks.”
“I was driven, as you will, to take on more responsibility,” Petrovich said. “But I didn’t walk in the door thinking about police chief. I was fortunate and blessed enough to become the police chief.”