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Police captain plans to retire this month

The revelation comes as the Pinellas Park department faces tense times, including an investigation.

By ANNE LINDBERG

© St. Petersburg Times, published February 11, 2001


PINELLAS PARK -- Ending months of rumor and speculation, Capt. Mike Vetter, the Police Department's second in command, will retire at the end of the month.

"It has been an honor and a pleasure to serve as a member of the Pinellas Park Police Department throughout my career," Vetter wrote in a letter notifying the city of his retirement.

He gave no reason for retiring at this point, save that "I recognize the need to move on."

Vetter added, "I leave with fond memories and wish each and every member of the Police Department continued success. Look out for each other, work as a team, and act in good faith, and you will be able to overcome any obstacles. . . . I bid you all a fond farewell."

Vetter, 58, has worked with the Pinellas Park department for 36 years. He earns about $75,000 a year.

He did not return phone messages asking for comment.

Vetter's departure comes at an awkward time for the Pinellas Park department, which for the past year has been at the center of controversy in the city as some female officers filed claims of sexual discrimination and some male officers lodged union complaints that they were victims of a "hit list" of officers targeted for dismissal.

Last week, the department's other captain, Robert Hempel, was placed on paid administrative leave while the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office investigates allegations that he used his private computer on city time and city business.

The news of Vetter's Feb. 28 departure was received with sadness but not surprise. Pinellas Park Mayor Bill Mischler said he had heard Vetter planned to leave last month.

"That's Mr. Police Department. That's what I call him," Mischler said. "He's just been an absolute asset to our city. I have never found an individual more dedicated to their job than Mike Vetter."

Vetter is a sincere person who is so cost conscious he turns the lights out when he walks out of an empty room, Mischler said.

"I've witnessed that many times," he said.

Police Chief Dorene Thomas, who has worked with Vetter for 21 years, also regretted his leaving.

"He's been a mentor. He's been an icon here," Thomas said. "When they come back, who do they go see? Mike Vetter. Capt. Vetter. He's been an integral part of many of the people's lives who've been here."

Vetter's departure leaves Thomas with a hole in her upper administrative staff during a time of change for the department.

At least one outsider, Bill LauBach, executive director of the Pinellas County Police Benevolent Association, has suggested Thomas eliminate the position of captain in exchange for more lieutenants.

It is unclear whether Thomas will heed that advice, promote someone or do something else.

"I'm not really sure what I'm going to do," Thomas said. "I'm kicking around a couple of ideas."

What she likely will not do is go outside to fill the position.

"I don't see any reason to go outside," Thomas said. "I have a lot of competent people here."

For now, she said, Lt. John Green will handle many of Vetter's duties.

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