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Keeping Cape Coral safe -- from one sheriff's deputy in 1962 to 230 sworn officers today

May 11, 2020
Cape Coral Daily Breeze

Val Everly and Jim White are names not familiar to most Cape Coral residents, but they are names that resonate through the history of law enforcement in the city.

As the city celebrates its 50th birthday this year, law enforcement remains a pillar in its development -- not only in protecting what is now community of 190,000 but also in how those who serve this community are embraced. The coronavirus pandemic has brought particular focus on the great work our first responders do each day and we can't celebrate their heroic efforts enough.

Everly was the first Lee County Sheriff's Office deputy assigned to this fledgling community in 1962. The population was only about 2,700, there weren't many business or roads for that matter, but residents still needed protected. He patrolled the city in a Chevrolet station wagon equipped with the usual red light but also an oxygen tank and a resuscitator, just in case he needed to be pressed into medical duty. The community wasn't the home to an ambulance or many medical personnel back then.

Article Photos

Photo provided by Todd Everly

Lee County Sheriff’s deputy Val Everly was first law enforcement officer assigned to Cape Coral in the 1960s.

The Everly name has been a prominent part of the rich history of Cape Coral enforcement for decades. Val's son, Todd, was sworn in as a Cape Coral police officer in 1984 and rose through the ranks to become the assistant chief of police before his retirement in 2008. Currently, Todd Everly is director of the Southwest Florida Public Service Academy.

"Back then, you bought your own squad cars and bought your own guns," Todd Everly said about his father's days in law enforcement. "In the daytime, if my mom was working, I would go in the car with him and sit in the front seat. If he had to make an arrest, dad would put that person in the back seat, and I would stay up front. When I got older, I told my dad I wanted to be a police officer. He influenced me."

Inside the Cape Coral Historical Society & Museum are memorabilia from dad and son, including one of Todd Everly's first gun belts. There also is an old Cape PD badge that was given to Todd from Kenneth Schwartz, who was hired by the Rosen brothers to be the first vice-president and general manager in Cape Coral, because the city didn't have enough badges for officers at the time.

Fact Box

City firefighters to be honored

The Cape Coral Historical Society and Museum will honor the city's firefighters during special festivities June 25, 26 and 27, kicking off a new museum exhibit, which looks back at 50 years of the department.

As the city celebrates 50 years of incorporation, the museum wants to recognize the first responders. In addition to the exhibit, fire chiefs who have led the department will make special appearances and firefighting equipment and trucks will also be on display for the public to tour.

Because of the pandemic and social-distancing regulations, the public is asked to go to the museum's website at capecoralhistoricalmuseum.org to RSVP for a time to be part of these special days.

When the city was incorporated in 1970, the charter included Cape Coral's first police department. White became the first chief in 1971. Val Everly was actually offered the job, but he wanted to stay with the sheriff's office, Todd Everly said. By White's side were a lieutenant, two patrol officers and a secretary. They shared two patrol cars equipped with civil defense radios.

There wasn't much happening in the way of crime in the early years of incorporation, but White and his men were devoted to the task of keeping this new and quickly-growing city safe. They worked out of the first City Hall, then located in the 4300 Block of Del Prado Boulevard. City Hall was built on landed donated by the city's first developers, the Gulf American Land Corporation.

Mack Vines took over for White as the next chief, serving from 1986 to 1989 and protecting a city that had grown to about 75,000 residents. Vines left for a slightly bigger department, becoming the new chief in Dallas, then the nation's seventh largest city with 974,000 residents and 2,400 officers. In a newspaper article at the time, Dallas City Manager Richard Knight said Vines was a "capable administrator who is sensitive to community needs and who has held his offices with integrity."

Lynn Rowe took over for Vines as the third chief in the city's history in 1989, serving until 1994. During Rowe's time, the city grew from 75,000 residents to approximately 90,000 but crime rates, especially violent crimes, remained low. Rowe left the Cape for Springfield, Mo., where he served as police chief for 16 years.

Arnold Gibbs became the new chief in 1994, picked over 155 other applicants. He was Southwest Florida's first African American police chief. Under his command were 100 officers and 50 civilian employees for a city exploding in population with over 100,000 residents but ranked as one of the safest cities in the U.S. Gibbs remains in the area and can often be seen entertaining residents as a musician.

Dan Alexander replaced Gibbs in 2004, followed by Rob Petrovich from 2006 to 2011. He oversaw the construction of a new police department building, which opened in 2009 on Cultural Park Boulevard. Jay Murphy was promoted from assistant chief to chief in 2011.

Bart Connelly followed Murphy until his retirement, bringing us to current chief Dave Newlan, who leads a department with over 230 sworn officers and approximately 93 civilian staff.

Submitted by Tom Hayden, a Cape Coral Historical Society & Museum board member. As we celebrate 50 years as a city, much of our area's history, chronicled at the museum, will be featured twice a month in similar articles provided to the Cape Coral Daily Breeze.

 
 
 

 

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