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FHP in the 1980s

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American flag2 flying at half-mastIn Honor of those who died in the line-of-duty

Trooper Chapman and Abbey visit the FHP Academy in 1987.
Trooper Spanky Chapman and K-9 Abbey visit the FHP Academy in 1987.



Patrol Records Progress

The Florida Highway Patrol has grown and developed into a traffic enforcement agency of foremost efficiency and stature. It is a story of phenomenal growth from a small group of 32 brave and hardy individuals who put the desire to serve in front of personal gain. Although the Patrol was created along with the Department of Public Safety by an act of the 1939 legislature, those "original members" had weathered a storm of uncertainty for at least five years before that act made it official. Back in those rough and tumble days of flathead Fords, bumpy motorcycles and inadequate Florida highways, the men rode long hours, worked for $125 per month and had hardly heard of a time clock.

The Patrol grew swiftly. Today it is known around the world. The good deeds of its Troopers bring complimentary letters in everyday's mail and there are young men as far away as Europe who have written wanting to know how old must one be to join the Florida Highway Patrol. The same reaction is received from youngsters from almost every state in our nation.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is the parent organization. It is comprised of the Division of Florida Highway Patrol, Division of Driver Licenses, Division of Motor Vehicles and Division of Administrative Services. The Florida Highway Patrol has the responsibility of traffic enforcement and maintaining traffic accident records and arrest records for the entire state. The Patrol presently has 1,208 sworn trooper positions and over 550 civilian employees. The 1981 session of the Florida Legislature granted an additional 150 trooper positions to bring the total to 1,358. There are 46 patrol stations with troop or district headquarters. The network begins with the Pensacola Station and ends nearly 900 miles away at Key West.

There are 10 troops and each has a commanding officer with the rank of Captain. Each troop has from 60 to 200 troopers and supervisors. These troopers are the backbone of the Florida Highway Patrol. They are closest to the public and it is through them, their efforts and suggestions, that courses, present and future, are charted.

In the first full year of operation in 1940, the Patrol made 4,836 arrests and investigated 1,000 accidents. In 1980 they investigated 126,158 accidents, made 693,248 arrests and gave 150,069 written warnings.

Also, with the growth of the Florida Highway Patrol, the state has had phenomenal growth. Florida has had an increase from 579,000 registered vehicles in 1940 to 8,982,000 in 1981. There are 7,809,000 licensed drivers presently in Florida plus millions of tourists who visit each year.

FHP Troops | FHP Academy Expands Programs and Facilities | Officers Teach Public Safety | Traffic Homicide and Records Section | Flight Section | FHP Auxiliary | 1985


Mariel Boatlift

In April and May of 1980, refugees from Cuba began arriving in Key West in boats of every size and description imaginable. The Florida Highway Patrol was the first agency called to assist local authorities with processing the new arrivals. That number increased daily and soon more than 100 additional troopers were sent to Key West and Miami to assist Troop E personnel in the handling and processing of the more than 125,000 Cuban refugees who came to Florida's shores on the Mariel Boatlift.

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Sunshine Skyway Bridge

On May 9, 1980, during a storm, a cargo ship entering Tampa Bay was blown off course into the concrete pilings of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge. Twelve hundred and fifty feet of the southbound section collapsed, falling 150 feet into 45 feet of water. Seven automobiles and one bus plummeted into the water before traffic could be stopped, leaving 35 people dead. Trooper L. A. McIntosh was the first officer to arrive on the scene and notified the Pinellas Park Station at 7:38 a.m. The homicide investigation was conducted by Trooper II, C. L. Tyre, and consisted of 570 pages.

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The Comeback Trail

It was before dawn on July 13, 1980, when Simpson stopped on Interstate 4 near the Orange Blossom Trail to help a woman with a disabled car. He parked his cruiser in the emergency lane about 70 feet in front of hers. He got out to help. Another vehicle slammed into him and knocked him more than half the length of a football field. When the first officer arrived on the scene the police advised their supervisors Trooper Carl Simpson was dead and the rest is history. He fought the brave fight to live and after a long battle of endless surgery, he returned to the road. He was also one of the first twenty Troopers to be assigned to the elite motorcycle squad. In 1999, Trooper Carl Simpson is still going strong. He's an avid runner and has the medals and trophies to prove it. Not that any one is counting, but so far, he's received 35 Gold, 34 Silver, 22 Bronze in State Regional, National and International Competition.

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Aircraft

In September 1980, the Patrol received funding for five new aircraft to bring the aircraft fleet to eleven. This made it possible to assign one plane to each troop for traffic law enforcement.

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FHP brings Order to Liberty City

One hundred members of the Patrol, from throughout the State, were ordered by Governor Bob Graham and the State Cabinet to temporary duty in Miami. This detail, combined with the local Troopers, assumed the traffic enforcement and accident investigation function for most of Dade County for most of Dade County from January through May of 1981. Working Dade's mammoth expressway system proved to be a new experience for many of these Troopers. A total of 12,586 accidents were investigated and over 58,000 arrests were made. 127 felony arrests were made, including one by Sergeant W. F. Hinson in which he confiscated $250,000 worth of cocaine. The detail was a huge success. The local agencies were able to reduce their response times and increase their felony arrests. This was a new milestone in the Florida Highway patrol's long history of dedicated service to the people of Florida.

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Trooper McDermon - click photo Robert P. McDermon, Sr., In the Line of Duty
End of Watch: Saturday, April 11, 1981

Trooper McDermon was shot while attempting to apprehend an escaped prisoner off US 90 near Jacksonville. He had served the citizens of Florida, with the Florida Highway Patrol, for 11 years.

His career with FHP began June 1, 1970. He was in the 39th recruit class in Tallahassee, from July 5 to September 25, 1971. He was stationed in Miami, Ocala and Jacksonville. At the time of his death, he was 35.

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Trooper Pruitt - click photo Robert L. Pruitt, In the Line of Duty
End of Watch: Monday, July 13, 1981

Trooper Pruitt was in an airplane crash in St. John's County while assisting in the search for two suspects wanted for breaking and entering. Corporal Cleo Tomlinson and Trooper Merle Cook were also lost in this crash. Trooper Pruitt had served the citizens of Florida, with the Florida Highway Patrol, for 5 years

His career with FHP began April 16, 1976. He was in the 51st recruit class in Tallahassee, from June 7 to September 3, 1976. He was stationed in Pinellas Park and Fernandina Beach. At the time of his death, he was 37.

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Corporal Tomlinson - click photo Cleo L. Tomlinson, Jr., In the Line of Duty
End of Watch: Monday, July 13, 1981

Corporal Tomlinson was in an airplane crash in St. John's County while assisting in the search for two suspects wanted for breaking and entering. Trooper Merle Cook and Trooper Robert Pruitt were also lost in this crash. Corporal Tomlinson had served the citizens of Florida, with the Florida Highway Patrol, for 19 years.

His career with FHP began August 30, 1962. He was in the 22nd recruit class in Tallahassee, from August 30 to November 17, 1962. He was stationed in Sanford and St. Augustine. At the time of his death, he was 42.

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Trooper Cook - click photo Merle J. Cook, In the Line of Duty
End of Watch: Monday, July 13, 1981

Trooper Cook was in an airplane crash in St. John's County while assisting in the search for two suspects wanted for breaking and entering. Corporal Cleo Tomlinson and Trooper Robert Pruitt were also lost in this crash. Trooper Cook had served the citizens of Florida, with the Florida Highway Patrol, for 10 years

His career with FHP began January 1, 1971. He was in the 40th recruit class in Tallahassee, from January 10 to March 31, 1972. He was stationed in Fort Lauderdale, Brooksville and Lake City. At the time of his death, he was 44.

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Call Boxes

In 1982, the call boxes were installed on the Florida Turnpike for the convenience and safety of the motoring public. However, call boxes were already a reality for Miami since 1973. Florida was the first in the country to install this program.

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Lt. Colonel Collar - Click photoInterim Director Lieutenant Colonel Roger C. Collar
July 31-December 14, 1982

On July 31, 1982, Colonel Beach retired and Lieutenant Colonel Roger C. Collar was appointed Interim Director.

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Culture Shock

On February 15, 1982, Trooper Robin L. Hadley graduated with the 64th Recruit Class and the Patrol sent him straight to Miami, Troop K and was that ever a culture shock to a young man from Pensacola, Florida.

Presently, assigned to the Orlando District of the Florida Turnpike, he's a Firearms, First Responder, PR 24, Domestic Violence, and ASR Instructor. He was also one of the first Noise Enforcement Officers.

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Colonel Burkett - Click photoColonel Bobby R. Burkett
1982-1993

On December 14, 1982, Colonel Bobby R. Burkett was appointed Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. Colonel Burkett is a graduate of the 13th recruit class of the Florida Highway Patrol Academy which was conducted January - March 1956.

He served as a Trooper in Bay and Leon Counties and was promoted to Corporal and assigned to Dade County in 1969. Later in that same year he was transferred to the Investigations Section and promoted to the rank of Sergeant Investigator in February 1972.

In 1976, Colonel Burkett was promoted to Lieutenant and assigned as a District Commander in Dade and Monroe Counties. After a tour as an assistant Chief Investigator in GHQ commencing in 1978, he was reassigned as a District Commander for Manatee County, in Bradenton in 1979.

In December 1980, Lieutenant Burkett was promoted to Captain and assigned as Troop Commander for Troop L, Palm Beach County, and from that position in May of 1982, was promoted to Major, Deputy Inspector, and reassigned to General Headquarters in Tallahassee.

He holds a BS Degree in Criminal Justice from the Florida International University and is also a graduate of the FBI Academy. Colonel Burkett is past President of the State Law Enforcement Chiefs Association, Inc., and served as Chairman of the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission. He is also a member of the Florid Police Chiefs Association, the Florida Sheriff's Association, Dade County Association of Chiefs of Police, the International Association of the Chiefs of Police, and serves as a member of the Vehicles Theft Committee. Further, he is a member of the American Association of Motor Vehicles Administrators and serves on the Standing Committee on Police Traffic Services.

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Mustang Patrol Cars

In 1983, the Patrol purchased its first Mustang Patrol Cars. The Mustang's handling was one of its greatest assets. Patrol cars of the past were as fast but did not have the high speed handling capabilities of the Mustang. The vehicle responded well to high speed and low speed curves.

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Drug Interdiction Teams

In December of 1983, the Patrol established the Canine Section. Each trooper and his canine are trained in all aspects of canine work which includes obedience, attack, tracking, and drugs. The primary use of these units is the detection of illegal drugs.

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Trooper Groves - click photo Frederick J. Groves, Jr., In the Line of Duty
End of Watch: Tuesday, September 18, 1984

Trooper Groves was shot, September 15, 1984, during a routine traffic stop on the Turnpike in Palm Beach County. The vehicle was loaded with marijuana and four subjects were subsequently apprehended. He had served the citizens of Florida, with the Florida Highway Patrol, for 14 years.

His career with FHP began October 1, 1970. He was in the 38th recruit class in Tallahassee, from January 10 to April 3, 1971. He was stationed in West Palm Beach. At the time of his death, he was 41.

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PR-24 Baton

The Patrol added a new, more versatile baton to its official equipment list; which can be issued to qualified personnel. The PR-24 baton, made of hard, black plastic is an l-shaped swing baton with a handle on the bottom that allows troopers to use a number of pain compliance techniques that the standard, wooden batons are not capable of.

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Computer - Aided Dispatch

Early in the Florida Highway Patrol's history, records were obtained and stored in a very timely and personnel intensive manner. Hand-written radio logs were kept by FHP dispatchers on every radio transmission going through the Patrol's radio room, teletypes sometimes took several hours over mechanical Western Union terminals, and license tag information was hand-searched in volumes of books provided by the local tag offices.

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800 Mega Hertz Radio System

The state's 800 Mega Hertz Radio System was installed in phases. The Pilot System of Phase I, was in Monroe, Dade, and Broward Counties. The first real test occurred during Hurricane Andrew in August 1992. Hurricane Andrew destroyed all telephone service south of Miami and throughout the keys.

Then came the 1994 Presidential Summit of the Americas in Miami and the system provided critical security for hemisphere leaders attending the conference. The system provided additional communications after the Valu-Jet crash in the Everglades and during the Belle Glade prison escapes, Cuban refugee crisis, the money laundering task force, and the recent wild fires in Flagler, Volusia, Brevard and Orange Counties.

The deadly brush fires that swept all 67 counties during the summer of 1998. Followed by Hurricane Georges, the latest unplanned test of the state's 800 Mhz digital communications system.

This system is working in 15 Florida counties along the Atlantic Coast, from Key West in the south to Flagler County in the north and Lake County to the northwest. This represents two of five installation phases that eventually will extend the system to all 67 counties. Those dispatch centers installed as part of Phase II are equipped with Motorola CENTRACOM consoles and currently covers Troops D, E, L and K.

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Trooper Gibbons - click photo Lindell J. Gibbons, In the Line of Duty
End of Watch: Saturday, March 23, 1985

Trooper Gibbons vehicle crashed while in pursuit in Collier County. He had served the citizens of Florida, with the Florida Highway Patrol, for 2 years.

His career with FHP began March 21, 1983. He was in the 68th recruit class in Tallahassee, from March 21 to June 10, 1983. He was stationed in Miami and Naples. At the time of his death, he was 38.

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New Aircraft

On September 1985, Troop K took delivery of a 1985 Cessna 182 retractable gear aircraft to replace a ten (10) year old aircraft. The Cessna 182 was reassigned to Troop H. This is the first single engine retractable gear aircraft every used by the Department for traffic enforcement.

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Chaplaincy Program

The Chaplaincy Program began in early 1985 when Colonel Bobby R. Burkett approved guidelines for selection and responsibility in the Chaplaincy Program.

The goal of the Florida Highway Patrol Chaplaincy Program is to provide a trusted individual in whom all Florida Highway Patrol personnel may confide when seeking guidance in a problem area.

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Motorcycles Return

Motorcycles were once a staple of the Highway Patrol enforcement program and became extinct for a period of time. They are now back and hopefully, here to stay.

The Patrol's new motorcycle section was re-instituted in Miami for traffic enforcement in the latter part of 1985. Their return was brought about largely due to an outbreak of highway robberies occurring on I-95 in Dade County.

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Sergeant Baxter - click photo John C. Baxter, Jr., In the Line of Duty
End of Watch: Wednesday, October 2, 1985

Sergeant Baxter was in an airplane crash in Manatee County while assisting in the search for a suspect in four armed robberies. He had served the citizens of Florida, with the Florida Highway Patrol, for 25 years.

His career with FHP began August 1, 1960. He was in the 20th recruit class in Tallahassee, from January 19 to April 8, 1961. He was stationed in Brooksville, Fort Lauderdale, Sarasota and Bradenton. At the time of his death, he was 57.

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Physical Conditioning Program

The physical fitness program at the FHP Academy took huge strides in 1986 with the acquisition of a new Body Composition Analyzer. This system allows a computer to make individualized physical fitness assessments of a trooper based on a brief fitness tests. Statistics from the fitness test are entered into the computer and a printout is made showing percent of body fat, ideal weight range, lean muscle content, water content, and aerobic capacity. If the individual trooper exceeds the weight and percent of body fat range as recommended an exercise and weight loss program is set up. The Body Composition Analyzer has been of great value for individual troopers to make a personal assessment of their physical condition.

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Pope Paul Visits Miami

In 1987, Pope Paul made a visit to Miami and many of our troopers were assigned to the detail.

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Trooper Rouse - click photo Stephen G. Rouse, In the Line of Duty
End of Watch: Saturday, March 28, 1987

Trooper Rouse was in an automobile accident in Broward County. He was responding to a fatal accident call on Alligator Alley, when a van made a U-turn in front of him. He had served the citizens of Florida, with the Florida Highway Patrol, for 11 months.

His career with FHP began May 5, 1986. He was in the 76th recruit class in Tallahassee, from May 5 to August 22, 1986. He was stationed in Fort Lauderdale. At the time of his death, he was 23.

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Trooper Young - click photo Jeffrey D. Young, In the Line of Duty
End of Watch: Tuesday, August 18, 1987

Trooper Young was shot while attempting to arrest a drug courier during a traffic stop in Manatee. He had served the citizens of Florida, with the Florida Highway Patrol, for 3 years.

His career with FHP began February 1, 1984. He was in the 70th recruit class in Tallahassee, from February 4 to April 27, 1984. He was stationed in Miami and Bradenton. At the time of his death, he was 28.

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Felony Officer Program

In 1987, under the direction of Colonel Bobby R. Burkett, the Florida Highway Patrol Contraband Interdiction Program, formerly known as "The Felony Officer Program," was established. In the early stage, this program consisted of six felony teams of two troopers each (a felony officer and a canine handler).

The felony teams were assigned to the FHP Investigation Section and were detached from their respective troops. The teams utilized their expertise in the detection and apprehension of motor vehicle drug couriers who utilized Florida roadways to import and export illicit drugs. In 1990 the Felony Officer Program was expanded to a total of 35 teams.

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Project Graduation

In 1988, the Florida Highway Patrol participated in Project Graduation. Lieutenant Jim Lee was actively searching for graduates who are interested in a career in law enforcement.

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Trooper Hendrix - click photo Milan D. Hendrix, In the Line of Duty
End of Watch: Thursday, June 1, 1989

Trooper Hendrix was killed in an automobile accident in Pensacola when his patrol car collided with a log truck.

At the time of his death, he was 37. Trooper Hendrix had served the citizens of Florida with the Florida Highway Patrol for 9 years.

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Lieutenant Thomas - click photo Benedict J. Thomas, In the Line of Duty
End of Watch: Friday, June 9, 1989

Lieutenant Thomas was struck by a passing car while walking back to his vehicle after investigating an abandoned vehicle on I-75 in Tampa. He had served the citizens of Florida, with the Florida Highway Patrol, for 11 years.

His career with FHP began May 1, 1978. He was in the 55th recruit class in Tallahassee, from May 1 to July 28, 1978. He was stationed in Tampa and Tallahassee. At the time of his death, he was 32.

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Public Information and Education Programs

The Florida Highway Patrol has had several successful public information and education campaigns dealing with major traffic enforcement initiatives since 1989. Almost all of these programs are still ongoing and will be continued indefinitely because of their popularity and because the programs work. Under the direction of Chief Robert M. (Mike) Kirby, several programs were initiated. They are: "Looking Ahead" was started in 1989 with a grant awarded from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to focus traffic safety programs toward elderly drivers and pedestrians. A training video and brochures were developed for both drivers and pedestrians to point out alternatives in the driving habits of the elderly. In 1990, "Speeding Can Wreck Your Day" was launched to address speeding issues. We developed PSAs for television and radio. A training video was also produced to supplement safety presentations to various groups. "DUI . . . Decide Before You Drive" dealt with the problem of changing attitudes about drinking and driving. It was developed in 1991 and had a different approach: "Choices." We developed a common sense series of television and radio PSAs and an instructional video outlining the problems the drinking driver causes and the sanctions involved in DUI convictions. People have "choices." They do not have to drink and drive. In 1992, our third initiative dealt with occupant restraints and was called "Safety Belts, Smart from the Start." This campaign won national recognition for its unique approach to the occupant restraint issue. A series of successful television PSAs, with the premise of being able to "stop action" just before a crash and having the luxury of buckling up, became popular. As we all know in real life, you never know when it's going to happen. If people really knew what the future held . . . they would buckle up.

Chief Public Information Officer

During Colonel Bobby R. Burkett's tenure he retitled the section "Public Information and Recruitment Office" and placed it under the supervision Major Charles C. Hall, followed by Majors Robert M. Kirby, Michael L. Boles and Kenneth C. Howes, Ernesto Duarte, and Captain Mark Welch, Captain Mark Brown and Captain Nancy Rasmussen.

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First Mother and Daughter Team

Theresa E. Allen went to the FHP Academy in 1982 and was assigned to Troop B. Two years later, her daughter Angel L. Allen joined FHP and they became the first mother/daughter team in FHP history. Theresa continued her career with FHP, while daughter Angel eventually became an investigator for another law enforcement agency. Then in 1990, daughter Ann L. (Allen) Hall joined the Patrol.

Trooper Steven C. Compton joined the Patrol in 1978. His first station was Ft. Lauderdale. During his 20 years on the Patrol he has served on the FHP Special Response Teams and was the first assigned helicopter observer.

In 1995, Theresa and Steven were married. In 1997, both Steve and Theresa were promoted to Sergeant and moved to South Florida. Steve was in Troop E and Theresa went to Troop K, Broward County. Not to be left behind, in 1998, daughter Ann was promoted to Sergeant and transferred to Troop E. Steve transferred to Troop K and is at West Palm Beach.

Sergeant Ann Hall has two children, son Michael 18-years old and daughter, Lindsay 16-years. In December, 1998 Angel Allen had a son, James. Perhaps this is the future generation of Troopers in the family.

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