The Fernandina Beach Rotary Club recently welcomed Fernandina Beach Chief of Police Jim Hurley who presented the department’s Officer of the Year, Mark Ocepek. Hurley said Ocepek was the first part-time Reserve Police Officer to ever receive the award. Ocepek was recognized for his willingness to fill in whenever and wherever he is needed by the department. Hurley added that Ocepek was also honored for his work with the combined Nassau County Sheriff/Fernandina Beach Police SWAT team and for the hours he has spent providing firearms instruction on the gun range. Ocepek, a former member of the U.S.Navy, has been recognized by Florida law enforcement as the best SWAT medic in the state.


Hurley also provided a brief police department update. He noted the recent police shooting incident on Bonnie View Road in Fernandina, saying even in our small community, the police force is trained and ready to protect residents from violent criminals. Hurley said that despite working with a reduced budget, crime in Fernandina Beach is at its lowest since records have been kept. He pointed to the combined county and city 911 dispatch system as a cost saving measure as well as improved and strengthened relationships with the Sheriff’s Department and DEA Task Force, which allowed for better sharing of staff and resources to reduce illegal drug problems and other crime in the area.