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After fire official's gun goes missing again, Tampa changes its policy

TAMPA — Milton Jenkins roamed the streets in July searching for his son, his car and his pistol.

It was the second time the supervisor for Tampa Fire Rescue was without the gun he'd earned after graduating from the police academy and becoming a fire investigator in 2005.

The first time was April 10, 2009. He left it in his city vehicle in Ybor City and the gun was stolen, according to disciplinary records.

The second time cost him his position and his gun, and inspired the agency to change its policy on how weapons are issued.

Jenkins, 44, was demoted from a supervisor to a fire inspector Friday, which means he no longer has police authority or permission to carry an agency-issued weapon. Also, he'll lose about $500 in annual pay.

An internal affairs investigation revealed that Jenkins returned home from vacation July 20 and couldn't find his gun. Two days later, St. Petersburg police called and told him his 1989 Buick was spotted leaving the scene of a home invasion robbery at the Lincoln Shores Apartments earlier that day. A shot had been fired at the scene, although no one was hurt. Still, Jenkins didn't report his gun stolen until days later, when he was ordered to do so by a Tampa police corporal.

Tampa fire Chief Tom Forward said Friday that Jenkins' conduct was "quite questionable."

"His choices in this matter were unprofessional and unacceptable," Forward said.

After learning of the robbery, Jenkins rode around Tampa looking for his son Adrien, 21, who usually drove the Buick. When he found Adrien playing basketball in East Tampa, he searched the car but did not find the gun and let his son go, the report said. At the time, Adrien denied being involved in a robbery, Jenkins told investigators.

Jenkins then promised detectives he would bring his son to St. Petersburg the next afternoon to answer questions, according to the internal affairs investigation. But Adrien didn't come home that night, so Jenkins went to work July 23 and started a second search while on the clock. Four arson investigators, two on duty and two off duty, helped him look.

They found Adrien at his girlfriend's house in Ybor City. An arson investigator suggested they call Tampa police to collect any evidence in the car, and Jenkins took his son to a lawyer's office. The gun was found in the car trunk inside a backpack.

On July 26, Jenkins was told to file a police report about the gun with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office. But he said he forgot and had to be ordered to do it the next day, investigators said. Authorities say it was the weapon used in the robbery.

Adrien Jenkins was arrested July 27 and charged with home invasion robbery. He was released from the Pinellas County Jail on Sept. 8, after posting bail of $75,000.

Jenkins' delay in reporting the firearm changed city policy for fire investigators, said Laura McElroy, a spokeswoman for the police.

Now, Tampa Fire Rescue will no longer issue its own weapons. The task now falls to the Tampa Police Department, she explained. "We have very strict policies about where to keep and how to keep firearms, and they'll have to follow those," she said.

Jenkins received exemplary reviews from 1995 until he was promoted to supervisor in 2009.

But his latest evaluation which covers October 2009 to October 2010 was less glowing.

Fire Marshal Russell Spicola wrote that Jenkins complains when confronted and challenges constructive criticism.

He also wrote that Jenkins "loses focus," "communicates well enough just to get by," and is "easily swayed by those he commands."

Jenkins disputed the review, writing that it was a personal attack because "I don't go along with (Spicola's) plans."

Jenkins, a 1984 King High School graduate, finished second in his class of 30 cadets at the police academy, according to city records. He spent seven years in the U.S. Navy before becoming a firefighter in 1995.

Forward stressed Friday that Jenkins is an "exceptionally capable" employee.

After fire official's gun goes missing again, Tampa changes its policy 12/10/10 [Last modified: Friday, December 10, 2010 11:40pm]
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