By  //  September 8, 2012

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Complex Mission Challenges Officers

Port Canaveral Police Department’s Marine Unit Police Officer Bill Wixon patrols though the inlets, basins and cruise terminals at Port Canaveral. (Image by John M. Egan)

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BREVARD COUNTY • PORT CANAVERAL, FLORIDA – To protect and serve is a phrase synonymous with the field of law enforcement, but for Port Canaveral Police Chief Joseph Hellebrand, one also can add a passion for protection.

Chief Joseph Hellebrand, is a 33-year veteran of the Melbourne Police Department and rose through the ranks from police officer, Sergeant, Lieutenant and Operations Commander, to become their Deputy Police Chief.

He holds Bachelors degree in Public Administration and a Masters degree in Criminal Justice from University of Central Florida, and is a graduate of the 197th session of the FBI National Academy and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Executive Institute. In addition he has amassed more than 4,000 hours in law enforcement training.

Port Canaveral Police Chief Joseph Hellebrand shows off a special member of the team, Lilly, an explosive detection canine. (Image by John M. Egan)


Chief Hellebrand has served as instructor for the police standards and training commission, is an adjunct professor for Florida Institute of Technology and an assessor for the commission on accreditation of law enforcement agencies (CALEA).

He is currently the president of the FBI National Academy Associates Florida Chapter, the President of the Brevard County Association of Chiefs of Police, the chairman of the Central Florida law enforcement data consortium and a board member for the center for law enforcement technology, training and research.

In 2009, Deputy Police Chief Hellebrand retired from the Melbourne Police Department to accept a unique opportunity to help create the first seaport police department in the state of Florida.

This is the shoulder insignia worn on Port Canaveral Police Department uniforms. (Image by John M. Egan)

Exciting challenge

“It was an exciting challenge to help create a police department from the ground up, and being Florida’s first seaport police department makes it even more exciting,” said Hellebrand. “We have been very fortunate to attract seasoned, highly skilled and dedicated officers from around the state and the county. They’ve come from as far south in Florida as Broward County to Citrus County on the Gulf Coast and Massachusetts in the northeast to Missouri in the Midwest, bringing with them an average of 21 years of experience in law enforcement.

“Among the world’s busiest cruise ports, we have a very unique challenge not seen in traditional law enforcement,” said Hellebrand. “As well as maintaining a safe and secure environment for business, recreation and tourism, we ensure the efficient flow of commerce in federally restricted areas. It’s a mission that requires a layered security approach, partnership, collaboration and daily communication with multiple state and federal agencies, as well as our local business partners, stakeholders, private security providers and cruise lines. Our mantra is simple, one team one mission.”

The mission varies by shift for members of the Port Canaveral Police Department. From left are Sergeant James A. Como, Sergeant Joseph Eakins, Port Canaveral private security supervisors Capt. Dorsten Hill and Major Susan Dionne. (Image by John M. Egan)

Drastic Differences

He said that policing the port is drastically different from traditional policing.

“Our officers answer the same types of calls as municipal officers or deputy sheriffs would, but approximately 80 percent of our time is focused on security as opposed to traditional police work. As a port we are not only governed by state, federal and local laws, we are also required to comply with the Maritime and Safety Act enacted by Congress in 2002,” Hellebrand said. “This ACT (MTSA) strengthens the security measures of domestic port security teams of federal, state, local and private authorities. The measures are designed to protect the sectors of maritime industry that have a higher risk of involvement in a transportation security incident.”

A Port Canaveral Police patrol vehicle is viewed outside the Carnival Sensation terminal. (Image by John M. Egan)

Facility plan

Hellebrand said all ports are required under the act to conduct a Facility Security Assessment and implement and execute a Facility Plan ( FSP) that is approved by the United States Coast Guard.

” Our current plan was earlier this year and is more than 80 pages long. Our compliance is monitored by the Maritime Safety Detachment of the United States Coast Guard stationed at Port Canaveral under the leadership of the Captain of the Port of Jacksonville,” he said. “Our most recent inspection was on June 10 and we are proud to say there were no violations or deficiencies noted.”

While researching the story, I had the opportunity to interview a few of the Port Canaveral Police Officers. I am not sure what I expected, but what I found were officers that thoroughly enjoy their positions at the port, very diverse backgrounds and an incredible amount of experience and talent.

Port Canaveral Police Shift Supervisors Sergeant Joseph Eakins, left, and Sergeant James A Como prepare for shift change outside the Port Canaveral Police headquarters building at Port Canaveral. (Image by John M. Egan)

On duty

In 2011, Joseph Eakins, a recently retired police lieutenant from the Palm Bay Police Department, seized the opportunity to be part of a newly formed police department.

Eakins brings to the port more than 26 years of law enforcement experience, from patrol, investigations, internal affairs, training, and his innovativeness.

Among them, Eakins and members of his unit are credited with the creation of the paraglider patrol program in Palm Bay.

“I am assigned to the 5 p.m. to 5 a.m. shift,” said Eakins, now a Port Canaveral Police Sergeant. “This is the only shift which resembles more traditional policing. On this shift, the cruse terminals are closed, except for the occasional casino vessel, but most of our activity is based out of the cove area. We respond to burglar alarms, reports of thefts from vehicles, complaints and traffic accidents. Most of the night shift deals with ensuring that secure areas are secured. Many maintenance personnel pass through these areas during those hours and it is the duty of my officers to check their credentials and a lot of double checking to make sure all the gates and all the doors are secure.”

Port Canaveral Police Department’a segway patrol vehicles are used by the officers to patrol the various terminals, passenger and cargo areas. (Image by John M. Egan)

Watchful eye

The Day Shift watch commander is the newly promoted Port Canaveral Police Sergeant James A. Como, who is a 20-year veteran of law enforcement.

A retired lieutenant from the Ocoee Police Department, Como served as a media relations commander, SWAT team commander and crisis negotiator. He went on to serve in Washington, D.C. as a corporate security manager overseeing executive protection and security operations. Upon his return to Florida in May 2011, Como was sworn in as a Port Canaveral Police Officer.

“We are a full-service police department and answer the gamut of calls for service that a traditional police department does, but our focus is more homeland security.” Port Canaveral Police Sergeant James A. Como

“On the day shift, my platoon A is more of a community oriented customer service-based unit,” said Como. “We do have our homeland security counter terrorism component and we are there keeping the terminals safe. I oversee a marine patrol that patrols our basin and our jetty and inlet. We are primarily there for the tourism. We are a full-service police department and answer the gamut of calls for service that a traditional police department does, but our focus is more homeland security.”

Port Canaveral Police Detective Ted Lightle is 30-year veteran of law enforcement with the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division ( SLED).

His career began as a police officer with the Capitol Police in Columbia, S.C. and he later went on to serve as a major crimes investigator specializing in auto thefts and financial investigations. Later Lightle took to the sky, literally, as a helicopter pilot throughout South Carolina assisting ground units and conducting air rescues.

Port Canaveral Police Detective Police Officer Joanne Lynch has mastered the technique of operating a segway as she travels the terminals and cargo ares at Port Canaveral. (Image by John M. Egan)

Diverse backgrounds

“All of our people here have a very diverse and rich law enforcement background,” said Lightle. “What intrigued almost everyone here is that it is the first port police in Florida, They seem to choose officers who have a diverse background and it is a good base to work with people who are used to working with other agencies. We have a very layered approach to security. It’s a task force type of an approach without the task force. We have security for the terminals, we have our own security, We have public safety and we have law enforcement and our partners, US Customs, US Coast Guard, U.S. Navy and the US Air Force. Security is our number one concern. Nothing can go on unless it is safe for everybody out here.”

Port Canaveral Police Corporal Mike Veina, is a veteran K9 officer of the Palm Bay Police Department. With his initial training as a K9 handler while in the U.S. Air Force and later the Palm Bay Police Department, he has a combined experience of more than 20 years in the field of explosive detection with his K9 Partners.

“I was attracted to the port because of the reputation of Chief Hellebrand, “said Veina.”I have known him for some time and worked with him and now I had an opportunity to work for him. I was about to retire from the Palm Bay Police Department and was asked to be part of the team at Port Canaveral.”

Port Canaveral Police Department explosive detection canine Lilly, a 5-year-old Yellow Labrador Retriever, has her own trading card. (Image by John M. Egan)

K9 partner

While on the team as a Port Canaveral Police Corporal, another opportunity came his way through the Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Safety Administration (TSA), in the form of a 5-year-old, 60-pound Yellow Labrador Retriever named Lilly.

“Lilly is a veteran too, “said Veina “in 2010 she was deployed to Afghanistan as an explosive detection canine. “While protecting our solders, Lilly was injured when an explosive detonated within 300 feet of her. Lilly was flown to Lackland Air Force Base in Texas for treatment by their veterinarian staff. After a full recovery, Lilly was recertified in explosive detection and transferred to Homeland Security.”

While working side by side, during a 10-week intensive explosive training program at Lackland Air Force Base, Lilly and Corporal Veina became inseparable new partners.

“Lilly was at the top of her class in training,” said Veina. “She is such a sweet dog and everyone loves her. I am proud to be her handler and proud to be part of the first K9 team in the nation dedicated to a sea port.”

Lilly and Corporal Veina patrol the various terminals and cargo areas of Port Canaveral ensuring safety.

“I was a dispatcher for almost a year and each time I would dispatch the officers to an assignment, especially ones that were incredibly interesting, I wanted to respond too,” Port Canaveral Police Detective Joanne Lynch

Port Canaveral Police Detective Joanne Lynch is a former deputy sheriff with the Jefferson County Sheriff Office in Jefferson County, Wash.

After moving to Florida, she became a dispatcher with the Satellite Beach Police Department. In 2002, Lynch was sworn in as a Satellite Beach Police Officer. After a five-year career there, she left the department to pursue her college degree. In October 2010, Lynch applied for a dispatcher position with the newly formed Port Canaveral Police Department.

“I was a dispatcher for almost a year, and each time I would dispatch the officers to an assignment, especially ones that were incredibly interesting, I wanted to respond too,” Lynch said. “I wanted to just run out the door and be with those officers. I knew then I wanted to return to patrol.”

In May 2011, Lynch was sworn in as a Port Canaveral Police Detective.

In a Port Canaveral Police Department shift commanders briefing, Lieutenant Bryan Bice, left, and Lieutenant Jim Bergenholtz review the upcoming schedule at the various cruise terminals. (Image by John M. Egan)

Unique experience

“It is such a unique experience here at the port. I am a people person,” said Lynch. “I enjoy the interaction I have with the tourists, their families and the young children as they set out on a cruise and the people that are here working day in and day out. Keeping them safe is very rewarding.”

That was the viewpoint of many of the Port Canaveral Police Department officers that I met.

“We are Florida’s first port police department and the first of its kind in the history of Florida,” said Sergeant Como. “All eyes are on us and we are all working with Chief Hellebrand to see that this is not only a success and a model for Florida, but for the rest of the United States.”

Their work has not been overlooked.

“We have been very impressed with Chief Hellebrand and the professionalism that he has instilled in his new, but very capable police force,” said Brevard County Sheriff Jack Parker. “Those who visit or work in Port Canaveral are in very good hands.”


  1. Nice! Although I didnt see where Hellebrand was caught stealing from the FBI Academy, nor Prohealth cafe, nor building materials from the Melbourne Police Department for his mother in law suite while he was in charge of ordering. Nor hiring and driving off 10 Police Officers from the Port out of its 17 officer pool in its just over 2 years of existance. Nor where Lt. Bergenholtz smacked K9 Lilly in the head for sniffing a desk top. Or Lt Bergenholtz not reporting several security breaches, contradicting to Federal law. I could go on and on. and thats just me, one of the ten Officers Hellebrand and his croneys could not tame to break laws or look the other way. Typical that this article embellishes good aspects and not the whole picture. You pull most of the current Port Officers to the side without fear of intimidation and retaliation from Hellebrand and his croneys, and I bet you will get the rest of the story.
    Earl Yearicks

  2. Blahblah. Telling the story Hellebrand “asks” Officers to tell is going to make you look like a fool soon. He used you for damage control. When the whole story comes out, this article is going to discredit your firm. Most of those Officers you interviewed did so under intimidation from Hellebrand. Stand by. You will see. And I will relay you filtering my comment out.


  3. Why didnt you show the first comment I made? How typical of a jounalist to show pieces and not all of the story. Show everything or dont show it at all. Partial stories can turn a real story up side down.

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