Capt. James Rieser appointed as Sarasota police chief

Sarasota County

SARASOTA, Fla. (WFLA) – Sarasota City Manager Marlon Brown announced the appointment of Captain James Rieser as chief of police of the Sarasota Police Department on Friday.

Rieser, who has nearly 30 years of law enforcement experience, will serve as the city’s 12th police chief. He joined the Sarasota Police Department in April 1992.

“I’m honored and humbled to have the privilege to be able to lead this agency moving forward,” the new chief of police said. “I am looking forward to continuing to partner with our community and working with our agency to keep the City of Sarasota a safe place to live, work and play.”

This appointment came just two days after former police chief, Bernadette DiPino, announced she was stepping down, effective Friday.

In a separation agreement, the city said DiPino “voluntarily” resigned from her position. City Manager Brown waived the provision where DiPino would have to provide the city a minimum of 30 days prior to resigning.

The resignation came soon after the former police chief came under fire following an anonymous complaint. The city received the complaint against DiPino at the end of 2020, saying she asked other officers if “she could borrow someone’s Taser” and motioned toward a mentally handicapped individual who was acting “mildly disruptive” at a free event being held by the Sarasota Opera.

“This was an inappropriate, demeaning, and degrading comment from the city’s top officer regardless of if it was a joke or not. This behavior and comment from the chief of police are not acceptable,” the complaint read. “She has disciplined officers for verbal discourtesy for far more minor offensive or insensitive remarks to citizens. Very inappropriate for a leader to make light of such an individual publicly in front of officers, no less joke about a use of force against them for no reason.”

DiPino had served as police chief since 2012.

Rieser, who will begin his new position at 5 p.m. Friday, attended the Police Executive Research Forum Senior Management Institute for Police, the Southern Police Institute in Kentucky, and took line supervisor and middle management law enforcement classes at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

He has served in the Patrol Division, Professional Standards Division, Narcotics and Criminal Investigations Division and most recently was the commander of the Support Services Division with SPD. Throughout his service, he’s been awarded a Life-Saving Medal, Distinguished Service Medal and Meritorious Service Medal, as well as several commendations.

Rieser was born in Oyster Bay, New York but has called Sarasota home since he was a young boy. He attended Wilkinson Elementary School, Brookside Middle School, Riverview High School and Manatee Community College and holds a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Saint Leo University.

Rieser and his wife live in Sarasota and are the proud parents of two children. In his free time, he enjoys spending time with family and playing tennis.

Full statement from Sarasota’s city manager:

“It’s an honor to promote and appoint Jim Rieser to become SPD’s 12th chief of police.

During his 29-year career with SPD, he has risen through the ranks from police officer 2nd class to sergeant, lieutenant and has been serving as captain for the past six years.

He’s well-respected in the department and community and well-versed with SPD’s extensive policies and initiatives.

He is prepared to step in as chief immediately and move the organization forward, strengthen trust between law enforcement and neighborhoods and lead SPD into a new technological realm with body-worn cameras.

Having spent most of his life in Sarasota and being a city resident, he is fully committed and dedicated to our community.

Being the chief is a significant responsibility, and Jim Rieser will serve our community and the men and women of SPD well.”

City Manager Marlon Brown

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