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05/01/2002

Palm Bay's Deputy Police Chief Ready for Retirement - Geyer, 59, Spent 20 Years on Force

by Linda Jump, Florida Today

PALM BAY - "Whew. I made it out alive."

Palm Bay's deputy police chief Kenneth Geyer, 59, will retire June 1 after 20 years on the police force following 20 years in the military.

Geyer said the job was stressful, confrontational but rewarding and one he always wanted to do.

When he retired as a drill instructor in the Air Force, his first job was as assistant manager of a "fried chicken place" on Merritt Island. He expected to teach and coach.

"I had no job prospects, but Palm Bay hired me and sent me to the police academy," he said.

After three years on road patrol, he and Doug Muldoon became the first captains in the department in 1986.

"We were two captains over one of the top 10 growth cities in the U.S. with a (police) department that was not growing fast enough," Muldoon said, adding Geyer was a father figure for many younger recruits. "He's a thinker, a planner and is meticulous at making sure everything's done right."

In 1996, Geyer was promoted to major and became deputy chief later that year.

After two decades of police work, he said, he has the highest respect for officers. But he said police work makes a person suspicious and often jaded.

"The public perceives you as being different because you can control their lives. You can take their freedom away," he said.

The most dramatic case in his career was when William Cruse went on a shooting spree in two busy shopping centers, killing 6 and injuring 14. The cases that still keep him awake nights are the so-called "vampire killer," who drank the blood of his victims, and a police officer found shot in the head. "I don't think officer Steve Pollack shot himself, but it was ruled a suicide," Geyer said.

He said it takes a person with dedication, common sense, integrity and the ability to get along with everyone to become a successful police officer. He would like to see officers receive more ethics training.

"That's so vitally important now. We are looked at much more closely now and the public has higher expectations," he said.

He has no specific goals for retirement other than to play some golf.

Police Chief Paul Rumbley praised Geyer's work and said he will be missed. He expects to reorganize the department somewhat, moving up a major to Deputy Chief of Operations to replace Geyer. A second major will be upgraded to Deputy Chief of Administration with the two remaining major posts in the operations bureau.
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