Update June 11, 2009: The Chief is now leaving in early July – 4 months earlier than he had advised.

Norman Botsford, the current Police Chief of Gainesville, Florida, announced that he would be retiring from his position. Although the following Gainesville Sun article highlights his history, they don’t mention how in recent years he has helmed a department who’s morale has dropped faster than, well insert your metaphor here… it’s way low.

This is a good thing.

Here’s what the Gainesville Sun said:

The City Commission will discuss the decision at 6 p.m. in the City Hall Auditorium. There will be a presentation from City Manager Russ Blackburn about the decision.

There will be a nationwide search for a replacement, and Botsford will remain at the department until the search is completed. Blackburn said that transition period should take four months and will not go past November.

#Chief Botsford has been contemplating this issue, I think, for some time,# Blackburn said Thursday at a news conference. #It was his decision to submit his intent to retire, and to ensure that we have an orderly transition.#

Blackburn acknowledged recent issues at the department during his speech, but emphasized that Botsford retired of his own volition.

Last week the media reported about three officers within the Gainesville Police Department who, on three separate occasions while off-duty, drove through a high-crime area with the intent of harassing prostitutes and drug dealers.

#I am saddened, particularly our most recent incident, and I#m insulted to some degree by the actions of these individuals,# Blackburn said.

Botsford began his career in law enforcement in 1966 as a patrol officer with the Fort Lauderdale Police Department. He spent almost 30 years climbing the ranks to become interim chief and then left for the Broward County Sheriff#s Office.

His next move took him to the college town of Columbia, Mo., where he was chief of police for three years.

#Chief Botsford has done some remarkable things in his career,# Blackburn said. #The Reichert House is really one of the best examples in the nation of how a city can be proactive in trying to address the issue of crime. He worked together with other law enforcement agencies, including the Alachua County Sheriff#s Office # in ways that are atypical for other departments.#

Blackburn emphasized that there would be a nationwide search for a new chief.

#Certainly we have a number of people in the department who will be interested in being police chief # I would encourage those people to apply,# Blackburn said.

Details will be forthcoming about how the search will be conducted and Blackburn said #it will certainly include opportunities for the public to be involved.#

Alachua County Sheriff Sadie Darnell, who had served for years with the police department, declined to comment on the announcement Thursday. Lt. Steve Maynard, a spokesman for the Sheriff#s Office, said his agency was prepared to assist with the transition of a new police administration in any capacity the police department requests.

Some higher-ranking GPD officers learned about the announcement at a meeting held shortly before the 12:30 press conference. The announcement also was being at a shift change this evening, according to some officers. But police also said rumors had been rampant for some time before reports that some officers had been involved in an egg-throwing incident that Botsford was planning to leave the agency in this fall. Talk had already started about in-house candidates for the job.

“Our job pretty much is almost not really impacted,” since Botsford will remain at the agency at least for several months, said Capt. Lonnie Scott. He said the agency must continue to “re-establish credibility and repair our image with the community.”

“We’re more focused on that than other items like the politics and other items we can’t control,” he said.

Staff writer Lise Fisher contributed to this report