Sheriff Names New Forensic, SWAT Unit Boss
New Port Richey Police Chief James Steffens is taking a new job next month.
James Steffens will soon leave his job as chief of the New Port Police Department, but he’ll get to keep the word “chief” in the title at his new job.
Steffens is being hired as chief forensics investigator at the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, the agency announced Tuesday. He will also continue to lead Pasco County’s merged SWAT Team, which is comprised of sheriff’s deputies and New Port Richey police officers.
Steffens replaces Charlie May as chief forensics investigator, which is in charge of all the staff in the forensice services section. May is a veteran of the sheriff’s office who spent 25 years there, seven of which were as chief forensics investigator. May is retiring next month. His current salary is $72,863.
"Bringing Chief Steffens on board, it’s like getting a first round draft pick early in the draft,” said Sheriff Chris Nocco. “Having him, the ability that he brings to the table, it’s going to make us a better agency, and it's going to make us a better Pasco County.”
Nocco touted Steffens’ experience as a police chief and SWAT commander at a press conference.
“Working with the chief, I think we're going to create a unit out there that can go out to schools, that can go out to different facilities, and give them more security features, work with businesses on how that we can improve security, because in critical times, we have to keep looking forward,” he said.
Steffens thanked Nocco for what is “truly, truly an opportunity of a lifetime.”
"I'm privileged and honored to be able to join the Pasco Sheriff's Office,” said Steffens in a press release. “I believe in Sheriff Nocco's vision and the opportunity to be part of his team and to make Pasco County safer is the opportunity of a lifetime. I will do my best to help him continue to move the agency and our community in the right direction."
Steffens joined the New Port Richey police department in May 2011 as lieutenant of operations. He was appointed interim chief in October 2011 when then-Chief Jeff Harrington left for a job at the Sheriff’s Office. Steffens was appointed chief in December 2011.
Prior to joining the New Port Richey Police Department, he served a long and distinguished career in the Clearwater Police Department. He served on the North Greenwood Neighborhood Patrol Team in a rough area of Clearwater in the 1980s. In 1994, Steffens' team was awarded Pinellas County's highest law enforcement honor, the Allen Moore Gold Badge Award.
Steffens served on Clearwater’s SWAT Team starting in 1991. He was promoted to lieutenant in the Clearwater department in 2001 and the operations commander of the department’s west district starting in 2006. He retired from the Clearwater department in 2009.
Steffens touted the police department’s relationship with the Sheriff’s Office as a "model" relationship. He said that the “walls came down” between the county and municipal agencies when Nocco became Sheriff. He noted that the two agencies worked together on many projects, including the SWAT team.
“Now when you're looking at the operations, you’re not looking at the uniform and saying ‘that’s New Port Richey' or ‘that’s a Pasco,’" Steffens said at a press conference. “You’re looking at ‘that’s a professional law enforcement officer, and they’re taking care of business.’”
Steffens has faced challenges with manpower at the police department. He also faced controversy recently when an officer was arrested on drug charges. He recently announced he fired that officer. He also faced a challenge in making the New Port Richey Animal Protection unit a reality.
However, he spoke positively of his time at the department and his officers. He wrote the following in his letter of resignation to New Port Richey Mayor Bob Consalvo:
“I have had the distinct privilege to have served the citizens, business
community and visitors of this city. I have had the rare honor to have worked alongside the selfless professional men and women who proudly represent the New Port Richey Police Department. The ever-present 'can do/will do' attitude and dedicated work ethic of these special men and women has helped keep this city as safe as possible and has moved this agency to new levels of respect
Steffens‘ last day at the police department will be March 16. He will be working with the city to find a replacement.
The city Council voted Tuesday to accept his resignation.
"My preference would be to reject, but I don't we will be able to force him to stay," said Deputy Mayor Rob Marlowe. "Chief Steffens has been a signicant asset to the city. I am very, very sorry to see him go."