Officer of the Month September 2000

Deputy Joseph G. Kessling

Oakland Park (FL) Police Department

Washington, DC—The National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund (NLEOMF) has announced the selection of Deputy Joseph G. Kessling of the Oakland Park (FL) Police Department, as its Officer of the Month for September 2000. Deputy Kessling currently serves as a Field Training Officer for the Broward County Sheriff’s Department, which assumed jurisdiction over the Oakland Park Police Department in August 2000.
Joe Kessling will tell you that as a kid, the only two things he ever wanted to be when he grew up were a fighter pilot or a police officer. The draw to law enforcement was so strong that he turned down a nomination to the United States Naval Academy, and the chance to play college football, to pursue his calling. The residents of south Florida and those with whom he works, agree that he made the right choice.
Deputy Kessling began his career with the Monroe County Sheriff’s Department in the Florida Keys in December 1979. While there, he completed an Associate in Arts degree as well as an Associate in Science degree in Police Science and Criminology. In May 1982 he relocated to Broward County and joined the Oakland Park Police Department.
In 1987, while working undercover, Deputy Kessling began investigating an adult bookstore and prostitution parlor that he suspected was laundering money for a major crime syndicate. His persistence paid off and within 6 months he served more than 20 search warrants and made 74 arrests at that establishment, 17 of which were for felonies. This investigation so rattled the crime syndicate that they attempted to obtain an injunction against Deputy Kessling and unsuccessfully filed suit against him and the Oakland Park Police Department. Closing the establishment was just the first step. Deputy Kessling’s tenacity resulted in criminal and civil RICO charges being filed against those involved and the successful prosecution of several career criminals. He was named South Florida’s Officer of the year by the American Society for Industrial Security for his work on this case.
During the past 18 years he has served as Acting Sergeant in every specialized unit in the department, including Undercover Narcotics, Burglary, K-9 Division, Street Crimes and Homicide. In each division, Deputy Kessling has shown outstanding dedication and devotion to duty while continuing to lead the department in arrests and convictions. Over the years he has completed more than 30 specialized training certificate programs. He and his brother, Special Agent Paul Kessling of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, wrote the touching “Police Officer’s Prayer”, which is a permanent part of the Broward County Police Officer’s Memorial.
In May 1999, due in large part to his unsurpassed number of arrests and his enthusiasm for the job, Deputy Kessling was hand selected by his sergeant to become a field training officer. Deputy Kessling tackled this new assignment with the same gusto that had become his trademark. He thoroughly enjoys working with these new officers and stresses to them the importance of knowing the people in the community they are sworn to serve and protect. He states, “It is important to let people know we are there for them.” He believes it is equally as important that each new officer know how to interview witnesses and interrogate suspects so that the reports they submit are thorough and accurate.
Joe Kessling is well known throughout the community where he lives and works. He is involved in a number of charities and organizations such as Big Brother/Big Sister. An avid sports fisherman, he delights in being able to take these needy children out on his boat for an afternoon. Most Friday nights he can be found at the local community center working with at-risk kids. He is their role model, providing them with love and encouragement. Recently an officer from another jurisdiction was involved in an accident that resulted in the amputation of both his legs. Deputy Kessling organized the “Dan Hodess Benefit Dolphin Fishing Tournament”, which raised over $30,000 for this officer and his family.
The list of Deputy Kessling’s awards and commendations is extensive. Twice he has been named Oakland Park’s Officer of the Year and on nine separate occasions he has been named the department’s Officer of the Month. He has received 12 departmental medals, and in 1999 received the Chief’s Excellence Medal, an award received by only two other officers in the department’s history. His file contains more than 180 commendations from law enforcement agencies and public service groups across the county. In 1999 he was credited with making more than 100 self-initiated felony arrests that included charges of burglary, robbery, grand theft and drug possession. His most recent department evaluation was the highest ever given. Former Oakland Park Chief of Police Edward J. Overman said it best when he referred to the deputy as “a one-man force combating crime in our community.” Deputy Kessling is a member of the Fraternal Order of Police and the Policeman’s Benevolent Association.