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After Tough Week, Florida Highway Patrol Looks Ahead To Agency's Future

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Facebook

It’s been a tough week for the Florida Highway Patrol. Talk of speeding ticket quotas led to the resignation of a Troop Commander. But, the law enforcement agency is now trying to put that behind them, and move forward.

The Florida Highway Patrol falls under the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. And, at a recent meeting, Department head Terry Rhodes assured Florida Cabinet members that state troopers are definitely not under a quota to write tickets.

“I assure you that FHP leadership understands that no quotas may be issued within our troops and no performance metrics may be impacted by the quota,” said Rhodes, at the time.

Rhodes comments came, after the head of Troop H—which covers part of the Florida Panhandle—issued a memo late last month to those under his command. In Major Mark Welch’s e-mail, he encouraged patrol officers write an average of two citations every hour as part of an enforcement initiative.

While he’d stated it was more of a goal than a quota, Welch also said traffic citations were more effective than warnings in reducing crashes, injuries, and death.

But, Rhodes says she doesn’t totally agree.

“Citations are a method of enforcement, but it’s not the only method,” added Rhodes. “An example of this I’m proud to say is this past 2016, 328,000 warnings, faulty equipment notices, and disabled vehicle assists were produced by FHP.”

Meanwhile, Major Mark Welch has since resigned over his memo, and will retire September 5th.

Now, Rhodes says she’s making sure all state troopers within Florida Highway Patrol know about their “no ticket quota” policy and calling for additional training.

“We will immediately designate that quotas are prohibited by Florida law within our FHP policies,” she continued. “Effective immediately, we will be adding notations in our command staff and our lieutenants and above position descriptions, stating that ‘quotas are strictly prohibited.’ Also, FHP is going to be working with our Department’s learning and development office to ensure prohibition of quotas addressed with online training. The training will be required to be done by all FHP supervisors.”

Also among her goals is ensuring all troopers have access to Narcan, a drug that can help reduce opioid overdoses.

“Right now, we’re in the process of acquiring those Narcan for over 600 troopers,” Rhodes stated. “We’re also going through the FDLE/DCF [Florida Department of Law Enforcement/Florida Department of Children and Families] grant process, but we’ll have over 600 roadside that will have that. And, it’s our goal to have all roadside troopers to have the Narcan.”

And, Rhodes says pay increases for them is her number one priority—heading into the next year’s legislative session.

Just last month, Governor Rick Scott announced his 2018 budget proposal included 30-million dollars in pay raises for the state’s law enforcement officers.

And, Florida Highway Patrol Director, Colonel Gene Spaulding, says it will help his agency retain and recruit new candidates.

“Florida Highway Patrol has a very exhaustive academy,” he said. “It’s 28 weeks. We are one of the few state agencies that will bring a green recruit in with no law enforcement training. We put them through extensive training for 28 weeks. They get through the state exam, they’re certified in Florida, and we can’t afford to continue to train these highly qualified young men and women to go out and defend these streets and the public safety for the state of Florida only to lose them to other states, other agencies, within our very near future, only because they’re not making enough money.”

And, on the heels of receiving a pay raise this year, Spaulding says he’s hopeful state lawmakers will be willing to do the same in 2018.

“We have a responsibility as a state to be able to provide for their families, so they can have some sense of normalcy, some comfort in their lifestyle,” he added. “We are 100 percent confident the Florida legislature going to also support this important initiative this year coming, and we look forward to it.”

FHP’s budget request also includes a $2.9 million Active Shooter Training facility that can be used by other law enforcement agencies as well as money for handheld narcotics analyzers and safety equipment.

For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.

Sascha Cordner has more than ten years of public radio experience. It includes working at NPR member station WUFT-FM in Gainesville for several years. She's worked in both radio and TV, serving in various capacities as a reporter, producer and anchor. She's also a graduate of the University of Florida with a bachelor's degree in telecommunications. She is the recipient of 15 awards from the Associated Press, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ), and Edward R. Murrow. Her award-winning stories include her coverage on the infamous “Dozier School for Boys” and a feature titled "Male Breast Cancer: Lost in the Sea of Pink." Currently, Sascha serves as the host and producer of local and state news content for the afternoon news program "All Things Considered" at WFSU. Sascha primarily covers criminal justice and social services issues. When she's not reporting, Sascha likes catching up on her favorite TV shows, singing and reading. Follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter:@SaschaCordner.