It’s not a surprise: Flagler Beach Police detective Rosanna Vinci, on the job at the city for seven years, is the Florida Police Chiefs Association winner of the Lee McGehee Award for small Law Enforcement agencies statewide. The Flagler Beach City Commission will recognize Vinci at its meeting this evening, at 5:30 p.m., the association will do so next week.
“I always knew from the age of 10 that I would be a Detective,” she said in a statement issued by the police department this morning. “I just didn’t know where. Fate decided Flagler Beach was where I was meant to be. Protecting the people of my community, to include visitors, is my main purpose.
The oath I took means more to me than just words I’m expected to repeat back on the day I was sworn in. I literally breath, eat, and drink that oath. I am proud of my community and to have the honor of protecting.”
She’s not exaggerating. You can see it in her work. Her approach is meticulous, almost compulsive. You could see it in her detailed investigative reports–and in her independence: it doesn’t matter if the subject of an investigation is an adjunct of city operations, like the man who runs the city-owned golf course. She’ll investigate him as rigorously as any other individual suspected of breaking the law.
It was, in fact, Vinci’s Sherlockian investigation of Terry McManus, the operator of the city’s Ocean Palms golf course, that led to his arrest on a felony charge of insurance fraud after he claimed a Caterpillar Skid Steer was stolen from the golf course grounds in September 2019 (he also claimed in a separate report that his Rolex watch was stolen).
Vinci had been a Flagler Beach police officer for five years at the time, but had led criminal investigations only for a few months when she took on the McManus case. She had many occasions to leave a few stones unturned. Instead, after relentlessly pursuing McManus to produce any proof that he’d bought the vehicle in question (he never did), after interviewing insurance agents and Caterpillar dealers and drilling down into the VIN number histories of vehicles, she documented that the vehicle McManus claimed had been stolen had been manufactured in North Carolina (in Sanford, N.C., to be precise), and traced down the physical vehicle itself to a authorized Cat dealership–in Canada.
She didn’t stop there. She found out from the Canadian dealership that the vehicle was sold to a family-owned company called Sandy Ridge Construction in Tappen, British Columbia. She located the family. And she sent officer Constable Stone of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (the federal Canadian police known as Mounties) to go to the family’s location and physically see for himself the $45,000 vehicle McManus had claimed had been stolen from the golf grounds in Flagler Beach. She included photographs of the vehicle. Based on Vinci’s investigation and the history of the vehicle, McManus’s claim was impossible to sustain. She asked that the vehicle be removed from the national databases of stolen vehicles.
And she secured a warrant for McManus’s arrest.
It so happens that another Flagler Beach police officer had–also in 2019–arrested McManus for his third drunk driving offense in three years. A jury found him guilty of that charge in a trial this week, and he is currently at the county jail, awaiting sentencing–and his trial on the insurance fraud charge, also a felony. (See Vinci’s full investigative report here.)
The same rigors applied to Vinci’s investigation of Carissa Sarno, a woman who earlier this year was promulgating a puppy-selling scheme to bilk people of their money. She pleaded guilty two months ago and was sentenced to house arrest for a year, four years’ probation, and ordered to make restitution to the people she had defrauded. Vinci had interviewed at least half a dozen of them, tracing down all the aliases and methods Sarno had used to place deceptive ads of puppies for sale to elicit down payments. (Sarno last week wrote Circuit Judge Terence Perkins, asking if she could use a gift card to a Flagler Beach spa before it expired, and if she could travel to Jacksonville for a birthday party with family. The judge denied permission.)
The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office is reputed to have a crack team of investigators and Bunnell last year swore in Detective Kyle Totten, who brought 26 years’ experience in law enforcement to the department–he happens to be married to Andrea Totten, the county judge–giving the county unusually solid criminal investigative coverage.
“Flagler Beach is appreciative to have Detective Vinci dedicated to serving our community for the past seven years,” Flagler Beach Mayor Suzie Johnston said. “Her selfless dedication and tireless efforts have made a difference within our community. What an outstanding accomplishment to be named Police Officer of the Year, Flagler Beach is very proud of you.”
Flagler Beach Police Chief Matt Doughney initially received the news from the Florida Police Chiefs Association. “Thanks to the Awards Committee for recognizing what an amazing job Detective Vinci does for our community,” Doughney said. “She is truly deserving of this award. Her tenacity, self-motivation and desire to make Flagler Beach a safe place to live, work and visit is commendable and worthy of this prestigious award.” It must be something in the water, or the department: Vinci’s predecessor, Liz Williams (now Lowe), had built a similar reputation for tenacity before her retirement in 2018.
“The Chief of Police and I are thrilled to have Detective Vinci recognized,” said Flagler Beach City Manager William Whitson, whose early weeks with the city have been garlanded. “It’s an honor to have such a professional working on our Team.”
Vinci will receive the McGehee Award at the Florida Police Chiefs Associations Summer Conference at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel next Tuesday (June 29). The governor and Sen. Rick Scott are addressing the conference on Monday, all other members of the Florida Cabinet are speaking on Tuesday, Sen. Marco Rubio speaks on Wednesday, when the Chief Executive of the Year and the Command Officer of the Year are announced. See the full schedule here.
According to the association, “The Florida Police Chiefs Association established the Police Officer of the Year Award in 1998 to recognize Police Officers who have demonstrated exceptional achievement and shown a genuine commitment to their profession, their agency and the public they serve.” The award bears the name of an officer who served 43 years in law enforcement, starting at the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and ending as Director of the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute, after stints at the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and police chief jobs in Pinellas County.
Vinci wins the statewide award for departments that have between one and 30 officers. Awards are also given for officers in medium departments (up to 75 officers) and large departments (more than 75). The nomination must be accompanied by “A statement of the specific circumstances involving police performance that went beyond normal job requirements.” The Canadian Mounty must’ve convinced the jurors that Vinci couldn’t have gone much above that beyond.