February 12, 2024
By Michele A. Mathews, Owner of Mathews’ HR & Safety Consulting Services
The culmination of our Law Enforcement Program Day, on Thursday, February 8, 2024, was preluded by individual class members completing voluntary ride-along with Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO), Pasco County Sheriff’s Office (PSO), Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office (PCSO), and Tampa Police Department (TPD) during at two-month window. During our time, we saw first-hand responses to Routine, Urgent, and Emergency categories that Law Enforcement are dispatched to as part of their regular tour of duty. Some calls we saw outside of regular moving violations were for suspected Trespassing, Domestic Violence, Wellness Checks, Theft, Vandalism, and accompanying Social Workers on Child Welfare checks.
For our program day, we started at the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Tampa Field Office, where we received a special Case Briefing directly from a Special Agent with the FBI Cyber Crimes Unit, who worked on a case that recently came to a resolution and was announced via press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Middle District of Florida after our visit. We learned that they could have as many as a dozen active cases at a time, that they are working the multiple angles and leads, partnering with other agencies such as the ATF, DEA, HSI, and the USAO, to uncover significant evidence needed for search warrants, wiretaps, arrests, and other requirements to bring forward formal Federal or State Charges.
We also were afforded an exclusive informational session with a dynamic panel comprised of the Assistant Special Agent in Charge with the Cybercrimes Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), a Special Agent with the Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Assistant United States Attorney (AUSA) United States Attorney’s Office (USAO) for the Middle District of Florida, a Supervisory Special Agent with the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA), and an Industry Operations Investigator with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (ATF).
In the afternoon, we had the honor of attending the Tampa Police Department (TPD)’s Training Facility, where Tampa Police Chief Bercaw kicked off our visit by sharing the statistics in reducing crime TPD has made over the last 22 years, a general overview of the Gasparilla Collaboration and how they prepare annually, major improvements currently in place and upcoming for those sworn officers and civilian employees as part of their benefits packages, and professional development opportunities within the department’s special operations units, such as K9 Squad, Mounted Unit, and the Marine Unit.
Throughout our time with the FBI and TPD, we split into groups for a behind-the-scenes tour, where we experienced a hands-on overview of the Evidence Response Team (ERT) and the tools they use, Firearms Training simulators with an immersive environment for the decision-making skills training, after an overview of the Department of Justice (DOJ)’s policy on Use of Force, the background of polygraph use in investigations, Informative sessions with the Marine, Mounted, and K9 units; as well as experiencing tactical driving techniques from inside the patrol vehicle as passengers.
Thank you to our Hosts, Speakers, Agencies, Deputies, Officers, Sponsors, and Committee Members for this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see a non-media-influenced, real-life experience into the inner workings of Law Enforcement. This Law Enforcement Program opened all of our eyes in many ways and provided us with an in-depth opportunity to expand our understanding of the Local, State, and Federal Agencies, how they operate, work in partnership with each other and the communities they serve, while also a tiny glimpse of what they face as part of “doing their jobs,” the Good, Bad, and Ugly.
While there are many takeaways from this specific area of our experience, what sticks out the most is that the Men and Women in these agencies are seeing members of the public on their worst days, and still maintaining their professional and interpersonal skills while de-escalating the situation, even when disrespected. They are doing their best, day in and day out, to bring a better community forward by helping people in need, saving lives, and reducing crime against the communities in which they serve.