Wilton Manors selected its new police chief at Tuesday night’s city commission meeting.
In a unanimous vote, commissioners elevated Assistant Police Chief Gary Blocker to the Police Chief position. Blocker thanked the police department for continuing to hit the streets in service of the Island City.
“I look forward to serving our community alongside you as your chief in alliance with our core values of service, courage and above all else impeccable integrity,” Blocker said. “Every day each and every one of us shall strive to report for duty with a goal of serving our city better than we did the day before. Simply put this is all I will ever ask of you.”
City Manager Leigh Ann Henderson recommended Blocker for the position, highlighting his two decades of service in law enforcement, including the last four years as assistant chief and his specialized training as a graduate of the invitation-only FBI national academy. Blocker, Henderson said, has the “character and professionalism required to lead a top-tier police department.”
“Assistant Chief Blocker’s vision for the future of the department is built upon innovation, transparency and building trust with our community. He’s committed to continuing and growing recruitment practices that foster a diverse and inclusive workforce reflective of the community we serve,” said Henderson. “Importantly, he will work to equip our officers with the training, tools and technology to carry out their work proficiently, respectfully and safely.”
Blocker assumes his new role April 2. He replaces Paul O’Connell who is retiring after a 44-year career in law enforcement. O’Connell has been the Wilton Manors Police Chief since 2011.
Commissioner Gary Resnick said Blocker will be the seventh police chief he’s served with and commended his response time. Resnick also noted the city did a full background check on Blocker to avoid a “Tony situation” — a subtle jab at the current woes of Broward Sheriff Gregory Tony.
“Gary has been probably the most responsive member of our police department that I’ve had the privilege of working with,” Resnick said. “He’s really shown his commitment to the city of Wilton Manors and the residents of the city.”
The police department has an annual operating budget of $6,568,112, including wages and benefits. There are 51 employees in the department with three reporting directly to the chief. The police chief’s salary range is $105,183 to $156,744.
The police department’s budget is 34.9% of the city’s overall operating budget, according to Pennie Zuercher, city finance director.
Henderson said Blocker will focus on community engagement strategies that foster relationships between WMPD and residents, neighborhood associations, the business community and local service organizations.
Commissioners approved Blocker’s hiring before hearing from the public. Only one person spoke against Blocker during the public comments portion of the meeting. Craig Jungwirth said Blocker “issued numerous defamatory statements against me.”
“Please don’t continue with the disastrous practices that Chief O’Connell instituted in totally mishandling my case,” Jungwirth said.
In 2016, Jungwirth was arrested and charged with making threatening Facebook posts against the LGBT community in Wilton Manors. Ultimately, federal investigators were not able to link the threats to any of the 59 Facebook profiles Jungwirth had access to. Prosecutors are barred from proceeding with a case where they do not believe they can prove the allegations in court. Beyond that Jungwirth has had many run-ins with the law over the years and has been accused by multiple people of harassment.
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