Dispatches from Citizen’s Police Academy

For a total of 11 weeks, the Gabber’s Debbie Wolfe will report from each session of the 2017 Gulfport Citizen’s Police Academy. This is part 2. 

Gulfport Police Officer Zack Mills holds a universal microchip identification scanner for dogs and cats that was donated to the department by a local resident. Each chip is about 1/2-inch in size, which is about the size of a large grain of rice. Chips are subcutaneously injected behind the neck of an animal either by a licensed veterinarian or someone acting under the supervision of one. Each chip contains a unique identifying code that is associated with the animal’s name and owner’s identification and contact information, which is then registered in a national-level database. The scanning tool “helps us to reunite found pets with their owners,” said Mills.

Law enforcement officials generate, track and maintain a wealth of information in a variety of media formats involving topics like field interview reports, offenses and incidents, arrests, fingerprints and bike registrations said Gulfport’s own records specialist Shirley Dibucci on Thursday, January 26 in the training room at police headquarters.

She described the workflow for each major record category including documentation about a murder that happened in Gulfport on May 23, 1984. Karen Gregory was stabbed to death in her home and the local man convicted and sentenced for her death, George Lewis, died in prison in 2014.

The department continues to maintain two duplicate file cabinets full of records about the Gregory case, one on and one off site, said Dibucci. Other categories of records have a more limited life cycle and are measured in terms of years.

Even bicycle registrations generate a record maintained by the department that includes information like owner’s name, street address and telephone number along with bicycle details like make, model, color, speed, type of frame, wheel size, brake location and the all-important serial number, which is the unique identifier that is often located under the metal frame connecting point located between the two pedals. The cost of the registration form and bike sticker is 25 cents though this is often waved at special local events like Junk in the Trunk.

When law enforcement officials find a bicycle, registration records help them to return the property to its owner, she said. Typically, the department handles from 400 to 500 bike registrations per year.

Gulfport Police Officer Zack Mills demonstrates how a DUI suspect would use the department’s breath test instrument to record a measurement of their blood alcohol level. Mills has received special training to be a breath test operator that includes learning what language needs to be used during testing. “The Intoxilyzer 8000 is an ‘instrument’ and not a ‘machine,’” said Mills. “The instrument technically measures the alcohol concentration at or above .08 grams of alcohol per 210 liters of breath volume.” In Florida, a reading of .08 or more means a person is impaired. “I’ve arrested over 100 people for DUI,” he said. The exact number of drinks it takes for a person to become impaired varies based on factors like how much they weigh or how much they’ve eaten before drinking, he said.

Detective Jennifer Crowson spoke about her job duties that involve investigating cases that cannot be solved initially by patrol officers such as incidents involving homicides, burglaries, theft, fraud, robberies, sexual predators and offenders, and sexual battery. Gulfport has four detectives, one of whom works under cover. One of them is always on call.

Crime analyst Margaret Palmisano described how she looks for patterns in records to help law enforcement officials monitor for and solve crimes. Twice each year, crime records from Gulfport are submitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and from there, state-level information is submitted to the Federal Bureau of Investigation as part of the annual collection of Uniform Crime Reports. (For more information, see ucr.fbi.gov.)

“In 2016, the Gulfport Police Department had a 27 percent clearance rate, which is the highest in 24 years,” said Palmisano. When a crime is cleared, it is solved.

As a public service for local citizens who need a fingerprint record for employment purposes, the department offers manual versions for $5.




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