Late last week Bunnell Police Interim Chief Brannon Snead spoke as if last Monday were his last day. He was categorical about it. “I’m done in Bunnell,” he said. But when Snead emceed a pinning ceremony for three Bunnell police officers on Monday during a City Commission meeting, he spoke very much as a man staying, and looking forward to watching his recruits and senior officers grow in their jobs.
He also spoke with a self-assurance and assertiveness that projected an ease with the job’s public and political nature that his predecessor had never mastered. The performance was artfully choreographed as if to lay the groundwork for a longer tenure, as if the words he’d spoken last week had never been spoken–or were spoken for public consumption, creating room for equivocation. The city manager, at any rate, has yet to advertise for a new police chief.
“I have grown very fond of the members of the police department,” Snead started as he stood in the well of the Government Services Building’s meeting chambers, where the homeless Bunnell commission is once again borrowing space until it has a city hall of its own. The commission had just begun its meeting Monday evening. “There is a great staff here and they do a lot of great things for the community. We’ve also now the most diverse we’ve ever been as department. We’ve hired five new officers. And in doing that they will start their training in February and I’m excited about what their career and what their future will hold.
Three officers were pinned: Sgt. Shane Groth, Sgt. Scott Bagwell, and Sgt. Kyle Totten, each of whom was just promoted. Totten had been the department’s detective. He will now handle internal investigations–policing the police department.
Brannon complimented both sergeants for what they bring to the department–leadership skills, confidence, bright dispositions–and spoke of their future with himself in the frame: “And I thank you for your commitment to me, the department and the commission and to the citizens of Bunnell,” he told Groth, “and I look forward to the great things you can do in the future.” To Bagwell, he said: “I can’t wait to see the great things you do.”
Totten’s role was a surprise: the department has never had an internal investigator other than the police chief. That proved to be a problem last year–at least according to some members of the city’s police department, who brought their complaints to City Manager Alvin Jackson–when then-police chief Tom Foster and then-Sgt. Matt Mortimer allegedly grew so chummy that Mortimer enjoyed or took advantage of the chief’s favoritism, hurting morale. Jackson drafted a long list of corrective measures Foster had to comply with, and a 30-day window. Foster retired instead, and Mortimer resigned, heading over to the Sheriff’s Office for a job.
Notably speaking in the present tense–another indication that Snead was not speaking like a man moving on–the interim chief said: “We’re going to be making a move that Bunnell police department really needed an internal check amongst itself, and what I mean by that is, someone who can help us oversee administrative, in-house investigations as far as transparency with the agency, a coordinator between the State Attorney’s Office, and as well somebody who can do applicant backgrounds. There is no other Number One choice for me because of their work ethic, the way that they’ve carried themselves, was to have Kyle Totten step up.”
Like Groth and Bagwell, Totten was accompanied by family–in Totten’s case, County Judge Andrea Totten, his spouse.
It was also notable that Snead refrained from making any attempts at snarky humor with Totten, probably because of the judge’s presence, though he had not refrained from that with the other two younger sergeants.
“I try not to get into people’s personal life but they have just gotten engaged,” Snead said of Groth when he was inviting his fiancee to walk up for a photo. “So good luck with your future. You’re gonna need it.” The comment was intended as a joke, but it was gauche, potentially unkind to Groth’s fiancee (if not to Groth), and a faint echo of Snead’s Achille’s heel: it was his attempts at what proved to be juvenile humor that ensnared him in an investigation of his conduct when he was a major at the Florida Highway Patrol, and that led to his decision to resign. He’d been accused by two employees of making inappropriate jokes and comments, charges he denied, though some of his emails at the time included examples of cringe-inducing language.
And so there were a couple of cringe-worthy moments Monday evening, as when, inviting Bagwell to receive his promotion certificate, Snead led with calling him “the best looking guy in the Bunnell Police Department.” It did not feel like a 2022 moment, though much of what Snead then added very much did: he projected an unmistakably forward-looking outlook that the Bunnell Police Department has sorely lacked even as he inexplicably underpinned his own drive and obvious talents with those flashes of odd form.
Totten’s promotion, he continued, “really fits our plan in the future of where we’re going,” the we again suggesting he could see himself in that future, which he said will include the department’s plan to seek accreditation for the first time in its history. He referred to “where we’re really moving as an agency,” and said that as far as the other officers who are just starting, “we will have something at a later date for them to introduce them.”
Bunnell Mayor Catherine Robinson also spoke as if she was hoping for more from Snead–more time, that is. She did not even call him “interim.”
“Chief Snead, we appreciate the sacrifice and dedication that you’ve given to the city of Bunnell,” Robinson told him, although, unlike Snead, she used the past tense. “You gave us great hope and confidence that we’re going to move forward in the best direction possible. As you know, I love my police department,” she continued, “and we look forward to where we’re going and we thank you again for your sacrifice.”
As of this evening, Snead was still the interim chief, a city spokesperson said.