Published in the Summer 2006 Issue
of the Florida Trooper Magazine
We have all heard the old saying “It’s not enough to be on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just stand there.” Success in any program requires constant movement and an embracement of change. The job of state trooper is one of many challenges and expectations. It is more than drug interdiction; it is more than speed enforcement; it is more than disaster recovery; and, it is more than traffic and crime investigation. Quite frankly, the tasks of a state trooper cannot be completely delineated. The mission of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) is particularly special and vital to the people living in and visiting the State of Florida.
For this reason, FHP has provided specialized training to its troopers for 67 years now. Not only has the FHP training function been on the right track since its inception, it has been moving at breakneck speed to keep our troopers prepared to multitask in a highly challenging environment. The Florida Highway Patrol was created in 1939. Also, so was its first training program. On November 1, 1939, FHP conducted its first recruit training school in a hotel in Bradenton, Florida. The class began with 40 recruits. Five weeks later, 32 of the 40 graduated and were assigned duties throughout the state. Subsequently, FHP conducted recruit training in Panama City, a U.S. Air Force Base in Kissimmee, Eglin A.F.B. in Fort Walton Beach, and finally, in the mid-1950s, an old military base in Tallahassee (2908 Ridgeway St.) that consisted of several wooden barracks. This became the first permanent home of the FHP Academy.
Continuing its role as a leader in professionalism and training, construction of a new state-of-the-art FHP training facility was completed at this same sight in Tallahassee in 1966. Eager to take advantage of this modern resource, the 29th recruit class quickly relocated into the new Academy from the luxurious comfort of the old wooden military barracks in which they were housed. A second building that augments the original was constructed in 1981.
In December 2005, we turned a new page in the Patrol’s history. The FHP Academy relocated to a new facility. In 2002 the FHP Academy and the Tallahassee Community College Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy endeavored to realize a goal to consolidate training resources. This was mostly an effort to reduce the drain the now old buildings of the FHP Academy in Tallahassee was causing on the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ (DHSMV) budget for repairs and upkeep. That year, the 2002 Legislature appropriated the needed funds (8 million dollars) for construction of a new facility on the campus of the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy in Midway, Florida. This new facility houses academy directors of several state and local agencies.
The architecture of the new FHP Academy at the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement campus allowed FHP to maintain its paramilitary protocol in the confines of its own area and classrooms. The administration building houses the FHP Academy office staff, store, and museum. This new facility has a wealth of resources that enhances the FHP Academy’s training efforts such as a mock courtroom, a mock dispatch training room, a computer lab, and individual dorm rooms (each with its own bathroom, TV with cable, and wireless internet access).
The new facility was completed in early 2005. However, the dormitory building was not completed until November 2005. Upon its completion, the 111th recruit class was eager to help load and deliver boxes and resources to the new sight. This was truly an historical transition and they insisted on being a part of it. The 111th recruit class also presented a model of the old FHP Academy to be displayed in the FHP Academy Museum. During December 2005, the 111th recruit class relocated to and trained at the new FHP Academy until their graduation on January 12, 2006, ending the old and beginning a new.
It is said that the future will not be a continuation of the past. It will be a series of discontinuities. The 21st century dictates that winners will be those who stay ahead of the change curve, constantly improve upon their programs, create new goals, blaze new trails, and change the status quo. Welcome to the new Florida Highway Patrol Training Academy.
By: Chief Silvester Dawson, Academy Director