After the events of 911, in which Marco Island Police Officer Al Schettino lost people he knew, Al realized that we must live life to the fullest now, as none of us will live forever, and made it his goal to live in Marco Island. This week, on June 15 to be exact, Al Schettino reached his one year anniversary with the Marco Island Police Department. Al greeted me with a broad, warm smile and was happy to tell me about his life before Marco and to share some of his experiences.
Al, with his wife and one of his three children, moved to Marco Island from New Jersey bringing a wealth of police and community service experience with him. Born in Coral Gables, NJ, Al worked for twenty-eight years on the police departments of Ridgefield and then Bergen City, first on patrol, next doing detective work, and then working on drug interdiction in a tactical street unit. He retired in 2006 from the Bergen City PD where he had reached the rank of Deputy Chief. It was while he was fighting drug crime in Bergen City, a city of approximately 1 million population, located in New Jersey just across from the George Washington Bridge, that Al became involved with the D.A.R.E. program (the pioneer drug prevention effort founded in 1983).
In his job Al had already learned that drug abuse is no respecter of demographics–that it encompasses all groups, from young children to the elderly, from rich to poor and those in between. Al worked resolutely in the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program for almost thirteen years before coming here. He trained other D.A.R.E. officers in this country and in Hungary, Thailand, Belgium, and Canada.
D.A.R.E. is a joint venture between schools and police departments. Using various learning modalities, the D.A.R.E. officer teaches students how to say “no” to drugs, stressing building self-esteem in the kids and addressing issues such as bullying. Al will be our School Resource Officer here in Marco and is currently spending two weeks receiving updated training on D.A.R.E. in Florida.
Al and his wife owned a Scuba Diving business in New Jersey and Al taught boating safety on the side. Most rewarding for Al was teaching physically disabled people to scuba dive. He is most proud of one of his students, a quadriplegic whom Al helped to become a certified scuba diver! Since coming to Marco Island, Al has become a member of the Coast Guard Auxiliary and of the Knights of Columbus. Al’s warmth and kindness shine through his smile. We are so fortunate to have this dedicated addition to our Police Department.