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Key West’s new police chief wants to get to know you. And you. And you ...

Sean Brandenburg, Key West’s new police chief

Sean Brandenburg is the new police chief of Key West. He was sworn in on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, outside the city’s police station. Donie Lee, who retired from the job Dec. 3, pinned the chief’s badge on Brandenburg.
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Sean Brandenburg is the new police chief of Key West. He was sworn in on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, outside the city’s police station. Donie Lee, who retired from the job Dec. 3, pinned the chief’s badge on Brandenburg.

Key West’s new police chief promised Thursday to get to know the island’s residents and expressed gratitude for the promotion.

Sean Brandenburg, who was sworn into office Thursday at a ceremony outside the police department, emphasized establishing a working relationship with locals.

“Most of the time, police officers only get to talk to people when something bad has occurred, when someone is the victim of a crime,” Brandenburg said in a prepared speech.

“A police department cannot be successful without a strong partnership with the community,” he said. “That partnership has to be developed long before any crisis. I want the police department and the community to get to know each other before we need each other.”

At one point, he said, “I stand here today to prove that a guy from a two-stoplight town in Indiana...” but he trailed off and couldn’t be heard from the front row. He quickly composed himself.

“I come to work every day with a positive attitude, working hard,” Brandenburg said.

Donie Lee, the newly retired police chief, left the job Monday. On Thursday, he performed the pinning ceremony, placing the chief’s badge on Brandenburg’s chest. Brandenburg will oversee about 98 officers and 30 civilians.

City Manager Jim Scholl chose Brandenburg to succeed Lee, a native of Key West who had been chief since 2008 after joining the department in 1994.

Brandenburg’s promotion from captain came with a salary increase of nearly $18,200. He now earns $136,500 as chief, according to the city.

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Key West Police Chief Sean Brandenburg gets a hug from a city staffer on Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018, after he was sworn in as the island’s new top cop. Gwen Filosa


Brandenburg has been a law enforcement officer since 1990, serving his first 12 years in Indiana and joining the Key West Police Department in 2002.

He was involved with the Special Response Team, the K-9 and Mounted Units, served as the detective sergeant in Special Ops Unit, then as the night shift operations lieutenant. He was promoted to captain of the Administrative Bureau in 2014.

He received the Life Saving Medal on two separate occasions in his time with the Key West Police Department. In addition, he served as unit coordinator for the department’s K-9 Unit.

Chief Brandenburg, in his first official duty as chief, swore in the newly promoted members of his command staff: Administrative Bureau Capt. Randy Smith, Lt. Matt Haley, and Sgt. Joe Stockton.

The public is invited to meet Brandenburg and several newly promoted supervisors at LaTeDa, 1125 Duval St. from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday.

Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was part of the staff at the New Orleans Times-Picayune that in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.


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