By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
'Personal reasons' cited for police chief's resignation
Mark Gerbino
Chief Mark Gerbino chats with a Starbucks customer during Coffee with the Cops at Starbucks on June 24. - photo by Photo by Birk Herrath

RINCON -- Mark Gerbino resigned as chief of the Rincon Police Department on Wednesday about one month before completing one year on the job.

In a statement released Wednesday night, the City of Rincon said Gerbino “left for personal reasons and to pursue other opportunities.”

Gerbino is a 43-year police veteran who was sworn in as Rincon’s police chief on Oct. 15, 2018. He came to Rincon from the Savannah Technical College Police Department. 

The New York native spent 30 years with the police department in Rochester, N.Y. He also worked in Los Angeles, Savannah and Americus. He resigned abruptly from the Savannah-Chatham County Police Department in 2011 and the Americus Police Department in 2013.

At his swearing-in ceremony in Rincon, Gerbino  stressed “honor” and “integrity.”

“They are important qualities and I try to weave them into my daily life, and actions,” he said. 

Gerbino called for teamwork.

 “There is not going to be any way for you to believe in me other than for us to become a team,” he said. “I want to thank you in advance for the work we are going to do. Don’t look for me to come in and start throwing things into the air.

“I can’t do anything without you and you can’t do anything without me. We are going to learn as a team and that’s going to happen quickly, I’m sure.”

After settling into his new position, started an assessment of the Rincon Police Department. His goal was for it to achieve Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police accreditation. 

Gerbino is a certified State of Georgia law enforcement agency manager and assessor who has evaluated other police department in Georgia and internationally, including in Jamaica and Somalia.

 During his department assessment in January, Gerbino terminated Lt. Jose Ramirez, a popular officer who spent 12 years on the force. He served as interim police chief for a few months before Gerbino was hired to succeed Phillip Scholl.

In the final pages of the report that he sent to the Rincon City Council before Rameriz’s dismissal, Gerbino wrote, “The current lieutenant/former interim chief resists change and, in some cases, subverts my ability to be effective.”

Gerbino’s areas of assessment included:

— Police building and facilities

— Police vehicles and equipment

— Technology

— Records and data management

— Investigations

— Staffing and resource allocation

— Organizational structure

— Morale and personnel issues

— Community perception and community relationships 

Gerbino’s report says the department “remains in need of restructuring, organizationally and systematically.”

When explaining perceived department deficities, Gerbino referenced Ramirez several times. Once instance says, “During the interim process, this individual was responsible for the Rincon Police Department. This is quite concerning. Deniability of responsibility, as has been the case with this individual, cannot be accepted because it is not plausible that he engaged in these roles yet holds no responsibility for the existence of these conditions or the outcomes described here-in under his command.

“In discussions with him, I have expressed a desire to help him, yet he continues to deny that he had a role in contributing to the condition of the Rincon Police Department and deflects the responsibility to others.”

Gerbino’s decision to fire Ramirez was upheld during a public hearing in April. Ramirez’s attorney, Rachel Berlin Beal of Atlanta, said Ramirez was “wrongfully terminated” because of discrimination. Her client is a native of Puerto Rico.

During the hearing, Beal suggested that Gerbino has a history of problems as a manager. 

Some of the “finding of fact” in a 2010 investigation of Gerbino’s actions in Savannah by Ellis, Painter, Rattee & Adams LLP were:

— “Major Gerbino loses his temper and ‘blows up” at subordinates and other employees of the Police Department

— “Major Gerbino twists the facts and lies to suit his own purposes”

— “Major Gerbino is erratic in that he makes impulsive decisions, and will later ‘flip-flop’ on the decision, creating confusion and inefficiency in CID 

— Major Gerbino has spoken in a derogatory manner about employees to other subordinates

In recent months, Gerbino focused on community-oriented efforts, including “Coffee with the Cops” and a neighborhood crime watch program.

Three weeks ago, he led a meeting a Compasion Christian Church to discuss the watch program with residents of Stone Walk, Dasher’s Landing, Lost Plantation, Woodbury, Hickory Knob and The Abbey.

During the event, Gerbino said that community-oriented policing is the philosophy his department intends to use.

“It’s nothing more than us serving you and us having a partnership with you,” he said. “ It’s you deciding what you need and us giving it to you.”