By Donald Rodrigue
For Hometown News
FORT PIERCE -- City officials and members of the Fort Pierce Police Department gathered June 16 at city hall to celebrate the 33 years Deputy Chief Gregory Kirk spent with the department before his retirement June 20.
Mr. Kirk began working as a Fort Pierce policeman in August of 1981, and over the subsequent three decades worked his way up the ranks to second in command. Along the way, Fort Pierce Police Chief R. Sean Baldwin says Mr. Kirk racked up a lot of honors.
"During his service, Deputy Chief Kirk has received numerous awards and commendations, including the Police Combat Cross, Lifesaving Award, Exceptional Police Service Award and several management awards," Chief Baldwin said.
Deputy Chief Kirk served as the department's first chaplain, developed and supervised the first bicycle patrol unit, served as the agency's first polygraph examiner and was the longest tenured SWAT team commander. He also produced the agency's first recruiting video.
Originally from Columbus, Ohio, Mr. Kirk grew up in Titusville and from there frequently visited his grandparents who lived in Fort Pierce. He says a law enforcement career was a natural step for him after completing a stint in the army as a paratrooper in 1977.
"I was raised in a law enforcement family and around police officers as a kid," he said. "My mother worked for the Brevard County Sheriff's Office in data processing, my grandfather was a retired fireman who worked with the Fort Pierce Police Department as a jailer and the St. Lucie County Sheriff's Office as a bailiff from the early 1960s until the early 90s."
Chief Baldwin says the retiring chief deputy has influenced almost every sector of the city's modern day police department.
"Deputy Chief Kirk's distinguished service and commitment toward protecting our community has made Fort Pierce a safer place for all of us," Chief Baldwin said. "His active leadership and mentoring have helped shape the police department, and we hate to lose him because he's part of Fort Pierce Police Department's DNA."
While with the department, Mr. Kirk completed several training courses, including the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute's senior leadership program, the Southern Police Institute's command officer's development course and the International Academy of Polygraph. He also graduated from the FBI National Academy and earned his master's degree in public administration while on the force.
Mr. Kirk says one of his biggest accomplishments was being able to continue his education "against all odds" after dropping out of school at age 16.
"I was married with a baby and washed dishes to pay rent and put food on the table," he said "When I turned 17, I joined the army and got my GED. When I got out in 1977, I went to Fayetteville Tech and graduated in 1981. After joining the Fort Pierce Police Department, I started going to Barry University and graduated with my Bachelor Degree in 1989. I went on to Troy University and completed my MPA in 1999."
The department's other deputy chef, Frank Amandro, says what most impressed him about Mr. Kirk was his leadership skills and dedication to both the department and the community.
"I have worked with him for the past 21 years," Mr. Amandro said. "He was here when I arrived and has certainly been one of my mentors."
Mr. Kirk says serving the department and city have been both an honor and privilege for him.