Dispatches from the Citizen’s Police Academy

Academy training includes techniques for safely clearing a building for active shooters either as homeowners or as law enforcement officers. In this special two-photo composite illustration, the “slicing the pie” technique for checking around a solid wall corner into another room or hallway is illustrated from both 180-degree perspectives. It allows people to avoid what is known as the “fatal funnel,” the area in the center of a hallway, in plain view of a shooter. On the left, Officer Kellington takes the position of an armed prowler. The red dotted oval shows what he can see of the person looking around the corner. On the right, the red dotted lines on the floor illustrate where the technique gets its name. Pictured from left are Ann Hays, John Gustaffson, Carole Gabrio, Diane Zacharias and Sylvia Gustaffson.


Debbie Wolfe will report from each session of the 2017 Gulfport Citizen’s Police Academy. This is part nine of 11.

Nuances involving narcotics investigations and marine patrols were the focus of the citizen’s academy on Thursday, March 16, at the Gulfport Police Department.

Participants met Officer Jesse Kellington, who up until a few weeks ago had been serving undercover for four years as part of the narcotics unit.

In addition to detailing the types of drugs that are the focus of investigations, Kellington also taught participants techniques for safely clearing the interior of a building when one or more active shooters are present.

Sergeant Rob Burkhart, supervisor of the department’s marine unit, provided details about the boat and the responsibilities of the department.

“We can enforce state statutes as long as we can see Gulfport,” he said. “That means I could be halfway to the Skyway and I’m still good. Basically, we can enforce all of Boca Ciega Bay.”

In addition, since the week included St. Patrick’s Day, a holiday traditionally known for enthusiastic revelers, this dispatch includes a partial night shift from 4 p.m. to 12:30 p.m. of what a patrol officers encountered while keeping the peace on March 17.

Gulfport Police Officer Jesse Kellington, now clean shaven and short-haired, sported facial hair and a pony tail just a few weeks ago as part of his “blend-in” look while serving in the department’s undercover narcotics unit for four years. Typically, local law enforcement officials serve in the specialty role from three to five years, then they rotate back into the regular ranks, he said. While employed by Gulfport, he worked with deputies from the Pinellas County Sherriff’s office and officers from St. Petersburg on cases like what happened on January 10, 2017 at the Joy Food Store on 49th St. S., where two employees were arrested on a total of seven felony charges that related to offering patrons Vegas-style cash gambling machines or heroin. “That was all me,” said Kellington. “Our biggest dope area [in Gulfport] is the 49th Street S. corridor.” Gulfport shares narcotics law enforcement in that area with the sheriff’s department and St. Petersburg, he said.


Based on a report from a pedestrian in the area outside Neptune’s Grill, 5501 Shore Blvd. S., on Friday, March 17, Officer Zack Mills had a conversation with an artist (in stripped shirt) displaying a large photograph of the St. Petersburg Pier from the back of a vehicle. Mills educated the artist about the city’s panhandling ordinance and cautioned that he could not sell his property on the street. Another bystander, holding a drink, took issue with the conversation and recorded it with his iPhone. Neither man provided his name.

The Gulfport Police Department currently has a 24-foot, center console, ridged inflatable Zodiac LE2400 boat built to military specifications with a Yamaha outboard motor that allows specially trained officers to regularly patrol and respond to calls along the city’s coastline that borders Boca Ciega Bay, said Sergeant Robert Burkhart, the unit’s supervisor. “We spend a lot of time pulling up along side other boats and this design allows us to not have to throw bumpers out” to protect the sides of both watercraft, said Officer Jesse Kellington, one of a group of eight officers currently qualified to captain the boat. Pictured from left are Burkhart and Kellington. 

On March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, Gulfport Police Officer Zack Mills wrote a noise ordinance violation citation to Salty’s on Shore Blvd. S. Using a portable tool, he measured the decibel level from the nearest residential property and the reading was 76 decibels, which was 21 points above the limit of 55 after 11 p.m. “That’s a lot,” said Mills. A resident in St. Pete Beach, across Boca Ciega Bay from Gulfport, called law enforcement dispatch to report a noise volume problem. Pictured in the alley in back of the bayside business, from left are J.P. Brewer, co-owner; Lydia Zimmerman-Crumbaugh, assistant manager; and, Fred Metzler, co-owner.




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