Memorial Day weekend is just around the corner, and Dewey Beach will be without its long-standing Police Chief Sam Mackert.
During the commissioner comment portion of a May 14 town council meeting, Mayor Diane Hanson announced Mackert suffered a fairly severe heart attack, had surgery and is also battling pneumonia.
“He may be out for a while,” she said. “It’s not a good situation. We’re hoping he’ll have a speedy recovery.”
Immediately following the meeting, Town Manager Marc Appelbaum said Mackert’s heart attack occurred in early May and that has far as he knew Mackert was recovering well. He said Lt. William Hocker will be the town’s top police enforcement officer in Mackert’s absence.
Applebaum said May 18 he was confident the town’s police force won’t miss a step with Hocker, who has been a full-time officer in Dewey since 2000, at the helm during what is traditionally one of the town’s busiest weekends of the year.
“The chain of command is still there,” he said. “We’re all wishing Sam a quick and healthy recovery. I have complete faith in Billy’s capabilities.”
Acknowledging the terrible timing, Hocker said he was ready to step up.
“It will be business as usual,” he said.
Hocker said as in years past, there will be an increased police presence in Dewey throughout the weekend. He said a request for assistance went out to neighboring police departments last weekend, but declined to give a specific number of officers available.
In Dewey, the police department and the lifeguards have a close relationship. The departments regularly call on each other throughout the summer season.
Dewey Beach Patrol Captain Todd Fritchman said he and his crew will be ready to carry out their jobs. He said they will be on duty during the weekends beginning 9 a.m., Friday, May 20, and full time following Memorial Day.
“There will be no changes,” Fritchman said May 18.
Mackert’s absence may not affect police operations, but it may cause a delay in a council-approved organizational analysis of the police department.
After working without a contract for nearly a year, Mackert and the town agreed to a five-year contract extension in November. A condition of the contract, which expires Dec. 15, 2020, says Mackert will cooperate with any independent expert’s organizational analysis of the department.
In March, the town approved $25,000 in this year’s $2.9 million budget to conduct the analysis, which Appelbaum said has not started yet. The priorities since the budget’s approval, he said, have been centered around getting the town ready for the summer.
Appelbaum said the goal was to begin the police department analysis sometime this summer, but, he continued, it could be delayed until Mackert’s return because having the chief of police involved would be valuable.