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Policing the Cape for 40 years

By Staff | Aug 20, 2011

The CCPD's Craig Durham and Thunder

At exactly 3 p.m. on Aug. 9, 1971, the Cape Coral Police Department went fully operational, offering around-the-clock service for the first time ever to a city of about 15,000.

About an hour and a half later, the department shut down after a lightning bolt from an afternoon thunderstorm struck the base station radio antenna, knocking out the radio and phone services. Power was restored by Tuesday.

“I think back in those days it was like Andy Griffith in Mayberry. There was very little crime going on,” Paul Sanborn, the city’s historian, said this week. “They became visible and readily available, but there wasn’t too much going on.”

The Cape police was created as a result of the city’s incorporation in 1970. Prior to that, one deputy from the Lee County Sheriff’s Office – Val Everly – was assigned to the area and served as law enforcement 24 hours a day.

“They were very welcome. They were treated well,” Todd Everly, the son of Val Everly, said of the Cape’s first police force. “The city was very happy to have its own agency.”

The inaugural force consisted of Police Chief Jim White, Lt. James Carroll, Sgts. William Beyer and William Gilmore, and seven patrolmen. The officers were Andrew Costa, Paul Parsons, Earl Perkins, Ronald Ryckman, Bernard Schwarz, Gordon Shute and Grady Yeager.

Behind the scenes were four dispatchers, including Rita Jarvis, Willard “Whitey” McCutcheon, Marguerite Reid and George Wellington, according to the archives at the Cape Coral Breeze.

“It was a necessary item in the development of the city,” Sanborn said. “I think everyone felt there would be more security; that was a big plus.”

The first police headquarters was located in one half of a building in the 4300 block of Del Prado Boulevard. The space, donated by the Gulf American Land Corp., which had offices in the building, also housed the first city hall.

In 1974, police and Cape fire moved into a new administrative complex on Nicholas Parkway. Police operated out of that facility until 2009, when the department relocated to a newly built, $21.6 million public safety building.

As of Friday, the Cape department currently employed 230 sworn officers, including one police chief, one deputy chief, five captains, five lieutenants, 26 sergeants and 192 officers, according to information from police officials.

In 1972, the city acquired its first police boat, according to information provided by the Cape Coral Historical Society. By 1977, the department was using a multi-channel communications system to monitor other local public safety agencies, as well as patrol car to patrol car communications.

In the early 1970s, the police dealt with a variety of incidents, some even humorous. For example, there were dairy farms in the northwestern part of the Cape during those early years of the department, Sanborn explained.

“We’d used to get calls from folks and some of the cattle would break through the fence lines and come down and eat some of the flowers,” he said. “So the police would have to go and chase the cattle back.”

Todd Everly, who grew up in the Cape, joined the city’s police department in 1984 at age 20. He had spent the prior year working as a corrections officer at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office, where his father had rose up to captain.

“I always wanted to become a law enforcement officer,” he said.

White was still police chief when Everly was hired and the department had expanded to about 40 sworn officers. The night shifts were covered by four officers compared to the 25 to 30 officers it takes now to cover the shift.

“It was a very small agency,” he said, adding that there was a detective division and a patrol division. “And pretty much that was it.”

Robberies were rare, and home invasion robberies were nonexistent.

“You would rarely have a homicide, maybe one a year,” Everly said.

“We didn’t have as many people working because we didn’t have as many crimes,” he said.

In 1985, the department acquired its first K-9, Thunder, a white German shepherd. The following year, Mac Vines took over as police chief for White, according to the Cape Coral Historical Society and Breeze archives.

“All of a sudden the population started to grow,” Everly said. “The economy changed, the boating industry picked up, and a lot of people started to move here.”

The city began shifting from a bedroom community to a small city.

“And what comes with that is crime,” he said.

Under Vines, the Cape police created its first SWAT team, followed by the motorcycle unit the year after. According to the Cape historical society, the motorcycle unit consisted of only two motorcycles during those first years.

Everly was a member of the SWAT team for 13 years.

“We started to serve more and more search warrants for narcotics,” he said. “We started to become more of a full city.”

After Vines left in 1988, Lynne Rowe took over in 1989 as chief and more changes took place. Officers were required to have college degrees and they traded in their revolvers for semi-automatic weapons, and vehicle-mounted computers were incorporated to assist with dispatch and record keeping.

“We had to keep up with what the community was doing,” Everly said.

“Technology has really changed law enforcement,” he said. “We had to change technology and keep up with it.”

In 1989, the department received its first accreditation. Three years later, the Cape police created a volunteer unit to help assist with the community.

Rowe left in 1993 and the next year Arnold Gibbs took over as police chief. During his tenure, he instituted the vehicle take-home program which enabled officers to each take home their police cruiser for use 24 hours a day.

In 2002, Gibbs was replaced by Daniel Alexander, according to the historical society.

In-car video cameras were installed on all patrol vehicles and laptops were later purchased for the cars. Alexander was with the Cape until 2006.

That same year, the department established a five-person dive team.

“I think the agency was maturing, it was growing,” Everly said. “There was a lot of opportunities there when the speciality units opened.”

Rob Petrovich took over as police chief in 2006, serving for four years before retiring from the force. Earlier this year, Jay Murphy was named the permanent chief of the Cape police and he continues to fill that role today.

“We knew the population was going to grow, and we knew that certain activities that the police department would be involved in would transpire and it’s done that,” Sanborn said.

After serving the Cape for 24 years, moving from officer to detective, then from sergeant to lieutenant, Everly retired from the department in 2008.

He expressed pride in where the agency has come over the years.

“I’m very proud of it,” he said. “I know they’re going through rough times now, but it’s a strong agency. There’s good leadership that’s there.”