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Police chief to retire

By Staff | May 27, 2016

When Cape Coral Police Chief Bart Connelly walks out the door of his office for the final time on May 31, he leaves behind 28 years of service to the community and a mound of achievements the city and its inhabitants can be proud of.

Five years ago, he made a decision to enter the Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP), which has now run its course and requires his retirement.

“I have worked with some very talented and very professional people who, quite frankly, have helped turn a good department into a great one,” said Connelly. “We had accreditation when I came on, but we are now state, nationally and internationally accredited. It is a great accomplishment for us to maintain our status as the second safest city in Florida for cities of at least 150,000 residents.”

Connelly joined the force in 1988 as a patrol officer, coming to Cape Coral after short stays with the Jacksonville and Orlando police departments. He worked his way up the ranks through vice, intelligence, narcotics, special operations and SWAT while achieving the rank of sergeant, lieutenant, captain and assistant chief (now deputy chief) before being promoted to chief in September 2013, replacing Chief Jay Murphy.

Using the administration’s planned succession policy Connelly has spent several years grooming his own replacement through a series of educational, training and leadership programs, so on June 1, Deputy Chief David Newlan becomes chief on an interim basis and Capt. Lisa Barnes moves into the role of deputy chief on an interim basis.

“It’s all planned out,” said Connelly. “He (Newlan) is ready to take over. He’s been exposed to all those areas he needs.”

Connelly, 54, still has two children in the local school system and does not plan to leave the area.

“I’m going to take some time off to be with my family and to decompress,” he said. “I will continue to work. I still have a passion for public service. I will get back into it in some capacity in this area.”

One thing Connelly admits he will miss is seeing the joint training facility project planned with the fire department become a reality in the near future.

“We started planning that back before the economy collapsed,” said Connelly. “It’s unfortunate that we could not continue those plans back then, but we revived it when the economy came back. I’ve been in on the planning of it, so, yes, I will miss being a part of that.”

In his retirement letter to City Manager John Szerlag, Connelly thanked the city, staff and council for their steadfast support through the difficult economic times and for ensuring the department still had the resources to police the city and see to the safety of its citizens. He also praises his department personnel.

“The people in this department are highly trained, highly professional and talented,” Connelly said. “We are blessed with a fantastic group of people that don’t get enough credit. They are committed and highly dedicated and that’s a recipe for success.”

Connelly concluded his retirement letter by saying, “As my time comes to an end, I leave highly confident that the City of Cape Coral and Police Department will continue to move in a positive direction under strong and optimistic leadership, providing its citizens and visitors the highest degree of safety and quality of life.”