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In Pinellas Park, a Change of Command

Dorene Thomas | Pinellas Park police Chief | Change of Command

Pinellas Park police Chief Dorene Thomas will officially retire today during a change of command ceremony. Assistant Chief Mike Haworth will take over leadership of the department.

PINELLAS PARK – Law enforcement officers and elected officials from across the Tampa Bay area will converge on this city today to honor a woman who once worked as a meter maid in what was then called St. Petersburg Beach.

Of course, that was about 40 years ago and, since then, Dorene Thomas has added a few more jobs to her resume – dispatcher, identification technician, reserve police officer. And, of course, police chief.

Thomas, who will retire today, is the first woman to be named chief of the Pinellas Park Police Department. She also holds a long string of “firsts,” that include being the first woman to head the Tampa Bay Area and Florida Police Chiefs associations. She was also the first chief, male or female, in Florida to go through the Crisis Intervention Training Program. The program is an intensive, 40-hour course designed to teach police the safest ways to handle mentally ill people they meet on the job.

Thomas will officially hand over the reins to the department during an 11 a.m. Change of Command ceremony. Her successor will be Mike Haworth, who has been serving as the department’s first assistant chief since February 2014.

Thomas began her law enforcement career in St. Petersburg Beach (as it was then known) as a college intern in 1974. She was hired as a meter maid, then moved up the ranks as a dispatcher, identification technician and reserve police officer.

She moved to the Pinellas Park department in 1980 as a police officer and subsequently worked patrol, vice, investigations and special services. She began the department’s Explorer post. (The Explorer program gives kids aged 14 to 21 a chance to train and work with local police departments to discover if they would like to enter law enforcement as a career.) Thomas was also a member of the department’s first SWAT team.

As at St. Pete Beach, she moved up through the ranks from officer to lieutenant and, in 2000, she became chief.

Thomas is past president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, past president of the Pinellas Police Standards Council, and past president and board member of the Tampa Bay Area Police Chiefs Association. She serves on the Pinellas County Substance Abuse Advisory Board and is chair of the St. Petersburg College Regional Community Policing Training Advisory Board, Vincent House board, and PAR’S live-free board and needs assessment work group.

She has been recognized as the International Crisis Intervention Team Chief of the Year, Police Officer of the Year, Sailor of the Year, Tampa Bay Government Businesswoman of the Year, Iconic Woman of the Year for businesses with more than 50 employees, and was the 2015 recipient of the Pinellas Park /Gateway Chamber of Commerce Good Government Award. She has also received the Hometown Heroes Award.

Thomas also has an active personal life. She retired in 2003 as a chief petty officer from the U.S. Naval Reserve after 24 years’ of service. She holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of South Florida, a master’s degree in public administration from Golden Gate University and is working on her doctorate at North Central University. She is a graduate of the University of Florida’s executive fellows leadership development program and the FBI National Academy.

She has been an adjunct professor at St. Petersburg College for the past 10 years and is a member of the music and Eucharistic ministries at her church.

Photo courtesy of Pinellas Park. For information and to see photos of Thomas’ last days in office, go to For information about Pinellas Park, see

Pinellas Park | Pinellas Park Police | Dorene Thomas | Mike Haworth

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