BOYNTON BEACH, Fla. — The Boynton Beach Police Department is officially here to stay as city commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to turn down merger negotiations with the Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office.
"It has become evident that certain pension liabilities that the city must meet over the course of the next seven to eight years makes the possibility of a merger financially unfeasible at this time," said Boynton Beach Mayor Ty Penserga.
This comes about a month after PBSO submitted its proposal in which the city had conflicts with financially.
People in the audience shared their support after fears of losing the local police to a larger department like PBSO.
"We can be the best Boynton that we can be with the right leadership, and I know and I feel that we are going to get there," said Commissioner Woodrow Hay.
"We need to support our police officers. No one is perfect. They're not adequate. They're great," said Commissioner Thomas Turkin. "I would like to know from Chief (Joe) Degiulio and city staff what they need from us as a commission to support them."
Degiulio has been with the Boynton Beach Police Department for 21 years and has been chief since July 25.
He said the department needs more staffing, communications, and ways to build better relationships between police and the community and can move forward now that the merger possibility has ended.
"There is a relief that it's over," said Degiulio. "It's met with mixed emotions. There are people that wanted it and there are people that didn't want it and I think that, at this point, just having some finality is just reducing the anxiety."
Degiulio said he'd also like to grow his total department number by six officers to help with community policing and investigations.
There are 156 officers sworn into the city but city leaders said they would ultimately like to have 169 officers to match the growth of Boynton Beach.
Currently, there are 11 vacancies.
"Plans are already in place to do some high-effort recruiting. We already identified locations in Palm Beach County in short term where we can put recruiting efforts," said Degiulio.
Boynton Beach is set for new budget negotiations in September in which the people hope the city will allocate more money to the police.
"Today it isn't about me doing it," said Degiulio. "It's about us doing it. It's about the community working with us. I look forward to working with everyone in the department and it's their opportunity to put their footprint in this organization and create their legacy."