It is with great sadness that we announce the unexpected death of Sheriff Walter C. Heinrich, age 83, DOB 11-8-26.
Heinrich had 48 years of law enforcement experience. He was appointed Sheriff of Hillsborough County in 1978 and served the citizens of Hillsborough County for 14 years.
Sheriff Heinrich was born in Harrington, New Jersey, in 1926. He moved to Hillsborough County in the 1940’s after serving in the United States Navy. In October of 1949, at age 23, he served as a Police Officer with the Tampa Police Department. According to news accounts, he was a “rising star” and at age 26 was promoted to Sergeant. When he was 27, he became the youngest officer in the department history to be promoted to Captain. He attended the FBI National Academy after only four years with the force. When he was at the academy, he compiled a notebook that Director J. Edgar Hoover noticed and called “outstanding”. While at the Tampa Police Department, he commanded the department’s first vice squad and directed major homicide and juvenile investigations. While at Tampa Police Department, he commanded the department’s first vice squad and directed major homicide and juvenile investigations. In 1964, he was awarded the department’s first Award of Valor for heroism.
In 1970, he was hired as a Major by his former police partner, Malcolm Beard, who was then Sheriff. In 1978 Beard decided to run for the House of Representatives, and Heinrich, decided to run for Sheriff. He was subsequently re-elected three times.
Heinrich became known as the “King of Sting” for his efforts of targeting those who dealt in stolen property. Through the use of confidential informants and storefront operations, millions of dollars of stolen property were recovered and hundreds of individuals were identified as dealers in stolen property. As a result of these operations, property was returned to their rightful owners, and notice was served on those who dealt in stolen property that their actions would not be tolerated.
The Sheriff was a firm believer in continuous training for personnel and established a training bureau in 1979 offering in-service training to Deputy Sheriff’s and Detention Deputies. In addition, new recruits fresh from the Police Academy were required to attend post academy training while assigned to Field Training Officers. He established a Spanish language course directed at law enforcement needs. Specialized training is offered to personnel dealing with specific areas of concern such as child abuse investigations. A training facility and pistol range in southeastern Hillsborough County is named in his honor.
To insure that citizens of Hillsborough County had the best deputies and law enforcement services, Sheriff Heinrich introduced extensive screening of applicants, including oral reviews, polygraph, and psychological testing. Applicants for promotion to supervisory positions completed management courses before considered for promotion. In addition, he established the Accident Review Board.
In 1986, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office became the first Sheriff’s Office in the southeastern United States and the third in the nation to attain accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, Inc. In March 1991, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office became the first Sheriff’s Office in the United States to become “unconditionally” accredited. This very prestigious honor was bestowed upon Sheriff Heinrich at the Commission meeting held in Denver, Colorado. In January 1992, County Jail West was awarded re-accreditation by the Commission on Accreditation for Corrections and the American Correctional Association. County Jail Central was awarded initial accreditation in July 1992. The Detention Department’s medical services have been accredited by the National Commission on Correctional Health Care since 1985.
As a former Crime Prevention Officer, Walter Heinrich was responsible for creating the highly successful Neighborhood Watch Program. He placed School Resource Deputies in all county’s junior and senior high schools and created the Truancy Intake Program.
During Heinrich’s tenure as Sheriff, the Hispanic Advisory Council was formed, and a Community Relations office was established in the Moses White housing project. The following specialty units were instituted at his direction:
The Crisis Management Team, Emergency Response Team, Agricultural Unit, Community Service Officer Program, Motorcycle Unit, Parks and Marine Unit, Environmental Unit, Career Criminal Unit, Street Crimes Unit, and The Parking Enforcement Specialist Team.
In 1990 he opened the new County Jail Central located on Orient Road, which is a direct supervision jail.
Early in 1992 Sheriff Heinrich decided not to seek re-election, and he retired December 31, 1992.