Although it was not incorporated as the City of Gulfport until 1910, the town was settled much earlier. In fact, the first resident built his home in 1867, and less than twenty years later, the town received its first name--Disston City. This makes the area known as Gulfport among the oldest settlements in the Tampa Bay area. During those early years, law was enforced without the need for officially appointed officers. Residents took care of their own problems, and if anybody needed to be arrested on a warrant, the trolley driver would come in and pick him up.
- First appointed marshall was John C. White, appointed upon the incorporation of the city in 1910. Soon after, the town decided that it did not need a marshall. White was briefly reappointed in 1928.
- $4,000 approved to build a house and jail for the marshall
- December, 1922--A law and order society was formed with the goal of reducing Gulfport's reputation as a lawless community.
- Early 1920's saw great turbulence--in one year, three marshalls were appointed and resigned. The J.A. Detective Agency was retained to serve as marshall until 1926.
- 1926--Sam Rainey appointed as marshall and the first to be issued a gun
- 1930--Census records Gulfport population at 851
- 1930's--The city commission, in an economic pinch, asked the Pinellas County Sheriff to make the Gulfport marshall a deputy sheriff
- These early marshalls employed volunteer officers when they required help, and they signalled for assistance by lighting the water tower in the center of town.
- 1935--Lloyd "Mout" Holland was appointed as the first "Chief of Police"
- December 29, 1937--The Evening Independent publishes a short article indicating that records only show 18 criminal cases for the year 1937.
- June 11, 1938--Council authorizes one-week paid annual vacation for all city employees, and authorizes police patrols to 4 AM instead of 1 AM.
- 1940--Census records Gulfport population at 1,581.
- Chief Holland must pay to feed prisoners from his weekly salary of $12.50
- June 20, 1947--Mayor Williams asks for resignation from police chief, Fairley Sullivan following controversy about his record as an officer in Mississippi.
- 1950--Census records Gulfport population at 3,702.
- Bill Jopson was appointed Chief of Police
- 1953--Sworn strength was three police officers, including the chief.
- 1960--Census records Gulfport population at 9,730
- Routine night shift patrols were first implemented
- Officers were issued radios to communicate with a central dispatch
- 1965-- Sworn strenth was increased to twelve officers.
- 1968--The first four-door patrol car was put into service
- 1970--Census records Gulfport population at 9,976
- 1970--Gulfport Police obtains access to National Crime Information Computer database
- 1971--Herman "Hap" Golliner was appointed Chief of Police
- 1971--Police deal with several days of violent disturbances at Boca Ciega High School, arresting several students following attacks on school officials
- Officers begin receiving overtime pay for working more than 40 hours per week.
- 1973--Sworn strength was increased to 17 officers.
- 1980--Census records Gulfport population at 11,180
- 1982--Police officers vote for and receive the right to organize as a union.
- 1987--Detective Lawrence Tosi arrested his friend, firefighter George Lewis for the murder of his neighbor, Karen Gregory following an investigation that took more than two years.
- July 21, 1985--Officer Allen Reed used deadly force to stop a fleeing burglary suspect who pointed a gun at the officer while running away.
- March 4, 1986--Dr. James D. Sewell is appointed Chief of Police
- Gulfport Police form a partnership with the Pinellas County School Board, assigning a Resource Officer to Boca Ciega High School
- 1987--Officers were issued Glock 9mm pistols to replace the six-shot revolvers that had been in use since the 1930's. Following some safety concerns, the Glocks were replaced with Berettas only a few years later.
- 1988--Former Chief Hap Golliner died two years after his retirement.
- 1988--Authorized sworn positions were increased to 23 officers in response to complaints from residents and business owners about high crime
- 1989--Officers were first issued protective body armor.
- 1990--Census records Gulfport population at 11,727
- August 29, 1990--Chief James Sewell resigned, accepting a job as director of FDLE's Executive Institute in Tallahassee
- January 1, 1991--The police and fire departments were combined under a Department of Public Safety
- January 7th, 1991--G. Curt Willocks was appointed Director of Public Safety
- 1993--sworn strength is increased to 29 officers.
- October, 1994--A new police station / city hall was built with state of the art holding cells, as well as communications and surveillance equipment.
- 1996--Officers were issued new, 800MHz radios, which allowed them to communicate directly with officers in other jurisdictions.
- 1998--Controversy resulted in Chief Willocks ordering that the Resource Officer be pulled from Boca Ciega High School
- 2000--Census records Gulfport population at 12,527
- February 9, 2000--The Gulfport Police Department was accredited by the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation.
- 2002--Authorized sworn positions increase to 32 to help staff a new police patrol boat.
- 2003--Notebook computers were installed in patrol cars, allowing officers access to records and other databases without the need to call dispatch or return to the police station.
- 2004--Officers were issued M-16 style, .223 caliber patrol rifles as well as Taser electronic weapons.
- 2005--Chief Willocks decided to replace the 9mm with a more effective .40 S&W in a Sig Sauer pistol.
- 2007--During severe budget constraints, authorized sworn positions were reduced to 31.
- 2007--When the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office stepped down, Gulfport Police again assigned a Resource Officer to Boca Ciega High School.
- April, 2008--The police and fire departments were separated, becoming independent once again. G. Curt Willocks was reclassified as Chief of Police.
- February, 2009-- Chief G. Curt Willocks retires as the longest serving chief of police in Gulfport's history.
- February 3, 2010-- Robert A. Vincent is appointed Chief of Police.
- January 1, 2012--In an effort to reduce expenses during severe budget shortfalls, city council voted to contract with the Pinellas County Sheriff for law enforcement communications and records management services. The controversial decision prompted a movement to ensure that primary police services did not follow the same path, and in 2012, council revised the city charter to require a unanimous vote to eliminate the police department.
Chiefs of Police
On February 2, 2010 Robert A. Vincent was appointed Chief of Police. Chief Vincent has over seventeen years of experience serving the people of Gulfport. He is a graduate of Gibbs High School in St. Petersburg and the University of South Florida in Tampa. In 2006 Chief Vincent graduated from the 227th session of the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Virginia. He is one of only two Gulfport officers who have had the honor of attending this prestigious course of instruction. Chief Vincent looks forward to increasing community interaction when it comes to policing strategies. On his first day he promised the people of Gulfport, "Gulfport is going to be policed the way residents want it to be policed."
G. Curt Willocks served as the Public Safety Director and Chief of Police for eighteen years, making him the longest serving chief in the history of Gulfport. He is credited with bringing the department to modern professional standards, achieving and maintaining status as an accredited agency in Florida.
Before coming to Gulfport, Chief Willocks served 20 years with the Boca Raton Police Department, where he retired as Deputy Chief of Police. Chief Willocks was qualified with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice from Florida Atlantic University, and he was a graduate of the FBI Academy, DEA Academy, Senior Management Institute for Police, Florida Chief Executive Institute and the Secret Service Academy on Dignitary Protection.
During his career, Chief Willocks served as president of the Tampa Bay Area Chief’s of Police Association, chairman of the Pinellas County Police Standards Council, Director of the Florida Police Chief’s Association, and as a member of the Commission for Florida Law Enforcement Accreditation.
Chief Sewell came to Gulfport at the age of 35, the second youngest chief in the agency's history. He had been an investigator at Florida State University and then a supervisory special agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement before being hired as Gulfport's chief. Armed with impressive education credentials (a doctorate from FSU), Chief Sewell is credited with bringing many positive changes to the department, including increases in training and recruting standards.
Golliner was instrumental in modernizing the police services. He increased the sworn strength, creating patrol shifts for 24-hour coverage as well as full-time communications and support personnel. Golliner also increased screening and training standards for police officers, and he was responsible for implementing a K-9 patrol within the department.
Golliner died just two years after his retirement from Gulfport, and his funeral was attended by many current and former officers.
Chief Roth saw the department through turbulent times, including the fear of riots at Boca Ciega High School during racial integration. He also presided during the national push towards professionalism of law enforcement.
Jopson managed a department that grew from three officers to twelve during his tenure, obviously spending a great deal of time himself patrolling the streets and handling neighborhood problems. He was also credited with the creation of a police records section. Previously, police records were essentially non-existent. Jopson was revered by the people of Gulfport, who later elected him mayor. Jospon served as mayor from 1967 to 1969.
Perry Weiss (1953)
Weiss was a young patrolman with less than two years' experience when he was appointed by the mayor to fill the unexpired term of Ed Lisenby. Weiss was selected in recogntion of his college education, where he had majored in criminology.
Ed Lisenby (1948-1953)
Lisenby oversaw the development of plans and building of a new police station, complete with a communications room and holding cell. This police station, which was designed when the department consisted of three officers, lasted until 1993, when there were 29 officers patrolling Gulfport. Following five years of service with Gulfport, Lisenby left to become a deputy for the county sheriff's office.
French Bishop (1947-1948)
Bishop was only 30 years old at the time of his appointment as chief of Gulfport's two-officer department. This makes him the youngest chief in the agency's history. He was a marine sharpshooter and then a Clearwater officer before joining Gulfport, where he worked for just a year before being named chief. He was eventually demoted to patrol officer by the mayor, and he resigned shortly afterward.
Verner Cross (1947-1947)
Cross was officially the chief of police for two weeks before he fell ill and had to resign.
Fairley Sullivan (1947-1947)
Much controversy surrounds the departure of Chief Sullivan. Mayor Williams asked for and received his resignation, but Sullivan later tried to withdraw the resignation, gaining support from many on city council. Sullivan had worked as an officer in Mississippi before coming to Florida, and information about his record in Mississippi came to light long after he had been employed in Gulfport, Florida. This information prompted the mayor's action even though Sullivan disputed its accuracy. Because the town charter provided that the chief worked at the pleasure of the mayor, Sullivan eventually lost his plea for reinstatement.
Andrew Quist (1945-1947)
Chief Quist took the initiative of assigning a part-time officer to patrol only the waterfront area of town. Also during his time as Chief, Winter fired one of his officers, submitting a letter to the mayor indicating that the officer "didn't do anything."
Edwin Ray Winter (1944-1945)
Winter took over following Holland's retirement in 1944, but his tenure was short lived. Winter died on January 7, 1945, just two weeks after his appointment.
Holland earned his nickname because of his frequent comment: "I mout lock ya up, I mout not." His initial salary was $12.50 per week, from which he had to pay for prisoner meals. As a result, he often left the jail unlocked in hopes that those "sleeping it off" would be gone by morning. Holland drove a '35 Chevy, for which he was allowed to pump five gallons of city gas per week. His officers' primary duties included collection of delinquent taxes and boat slip rentals.
Sam Renney (1929)
John Leigh (1926)