The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO) entered 2022 in a spirit of optimism. After two challenging years and with the pandemic behind us, we looked forward to being able to safely re-engage the community through our presence at events and resume our full suite of public education programming. While our efforts at community events are significant and our public education opportunities are robust, providing the public with timely and interesting information about the agency and public safety is critical to our success. Our public relations staff do their best to keep the PCSO front and center on social media and through our publications like this one and our biweekly e-newsletter, Inside the Star. Let’s look back at some of the big PCSO stories of 2022.
We started 2022 by debuting our new and improved Chevrolet Tahoe patrol vehicles. The updated Police Pursuit Vehicles or “PPVs” are packed with new features that better support our law enforcement mission and keep our deputies safer. Each Tahoe requires an average of 60 hours of work from our dedicated Fleet technicians.
Three new four-legged deputies hit the streets after completing K-9 School. Following a grueling tryout process, Deputies Zenandrie, Hunter, and Huckabee were selected to join the unit. They paired with their new K-9 partners and embarked on an intense 16-week school – four weeks longer than what’s required by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for certification. K-9s Drogo (Zenandrie), Magz (Hunter), and Khan (Huckabee) showcased their skills at their public graduation and are now on the streets tracking suspects and missing persons.
The PCSO Flight Unit celebrated 50 years in the skies above Pinellas County. Coincidentally, replacing a 31-year-old helicopter with a brand new Airbus H125 became a part of the celebration. The new addition to the fleet arrived over the summer and is more powerful, has more safety equipment, digital avionics, and an autopilot.
Over the summer, the PCSO hosted a multi-jurisdictional active shooter mass casualty exercise. The training was held at Highpoint Elementary School and involved several law enforcement agencies as well as the Pinellas County School Board, local fire departments, Sunstar, 911, and Emergency Management. The intent of the exercise was to comprehensively test the training, policies, and practices of all involved components to make improvements in the event of an actual active shooter situation.
Robert Holzaepfel, the man responsible for the death of Deputy Michael J. Magli, pled guilty and was sentenced to 35 years in prison. Holzaepfel, who was under the influence while fleeing from deputies before striking Deputy Magli, was charged with third-degree murder, DUI manslaughter, and felony driving with his license suspended or revoked.
On September 22nd, we lost our second deputy in the line of duty in 19-months: Deputy Michael Hartwick. He was senselessly killed when he was struck by a front loader while working a construction detail on I-275 in St. Petersburg. The man who struck him fled the scene and was caught after a nine-hour manhunt. Deputy Hartwick is remembered as a funny, kind, and dedicated deputy.
Even as we were dealing with the aftermath of Deputy Hartwick’s death we faced the looming threat of Hurricane Ian. When forecasts predicted a direct Pinellas County landfall we ramped up our preparations: coordinating evacuations, manning shelters, closing the barrier islands, and getting ready for rescues. When the storm veered south at the last minute we were able to mobilize boats and deputies to aid the areas that were hardest hit.
Like any year, 2022 had its ups and downs, but we value our opportunities to bring these stories to you. If you’re working on a New Year’s resolution, consider engaging with us on social media and subscribing to Inside the Star by visiting www.pcsoweb.com/insidethestar.
Wishing you and yours a safe and happy holiday season.
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