As we approach the end of the year, several State agencies reported highlights from some of their member’s most significant accomplishments in 2022. Among them was the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Many of the accomplishments of the Department are reflected in the regular reports published by Historic City News.
This month, one such accomplishment was that Florida became the second state to be approved by the FBI to perform Rapid DNA analysis at booking stations. This achievement was the culmination of many years of work and development between FDLE and the FBI.
“It’s an exciting time to be part of the FDLE team as we continue to evolve into a modern and pioneering law enforcement agency,” FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass said. “Our members have worked hard this year to advance public safety throughout Florida, and we have a lot to be proud of. I can’t wait to see what we do in 2023.”
The following is a summary of initiatives from 2022:
Combating Crime from the Southern Border
Starting in June, FDLE, along with FHP and local law enforcement agencies, began criminal interdictions across Florida focusing on identifying and stopping illegal activity, including drug trafficking, human smuggling, and organized crime. These interdictions continued into the fall and have resulted in 38 human-smuggling charges, 62 drug charges, and the seizure of more than $642,000 worth of illegal drugs.
Combating Drug Trafficking
FDLE arrested 25 suspects in Operation 13 Tiers following a two-year investigation into the SUR-13 gang that was operating a large drug-trafficking operation in Southwest Florida and statewide. The investigation was led by FDLE’s Fort Myers Region. The suspects were arrested for conspiracy to commit murder, trafficking in fentanyl, trafficking in methamphetamine, racketeering, and numerous other drug-related charges. The highest-ranking members were inmates in Florida prisons, but they were able to run the gang from their prison cells. These gang members had direct contact with suspected drug cartel members in Mexico and California. Over the course of the investigation, FDLE agents, Hendry County sheriff’s deputies, HIS agents, and FBI agents seized large shipments of drugs and weapons, including more than 380 pounds of methamphetamine, 48 pounds of fentanyl, 15,000 fentanyl pills, 1 pound of heroin and 45 guns.
Community Drug Awareness
Drug trend data from FDLE crime labs and the Office of Statewide Intelligence improved public safety with information intelligence reports facilitating the emergency scheduling of the nitazene class of drugs and increased fentanyl derivative awareness.
Securing Florida Elections
FDLE established its Election Crime Unit with inspectors working statewide to investigate possible election crimes. Working closely with the Florida Secretary of State’s Office of Election Crimes and Security, inspectors arrested more than 20 convicted sex offenders and murderers for voting illegally, and further investigations are ongoing. In addition, inspectors arrested a Jamaican citizen for voting illegally in Florida and a former physician, working as a physician’s assistant, who voted in both Florida and Alaska. Prior to the November 2022 election, FDLE developed information educating Florida law enforcement and citizens about potential threats to election security. This information was distributed statewide to our criminal justice partners, on social media, and on the FDLE website.
Tracking and Monitoring Sexual Offenders
In October, 40 sex offenders were arrested in a joint Halloween operation spearheaded by FDLE’s Enforcement and Investigative Support inspectors, Tampa Bay Regional Operations Center agents, FDLE’s Offender Enforcement and Apprehension Unit analysts, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Department of Corrections. Inspectors, agents, and deputies contacted 123 registered sex offenders residing in Hillsborough County. Of those arrested, 37 were charged with violating probation, and 21 were charged with committing new felony offenses. Many of the new charges were based on investigative work conducted by FDLE inspectors, agents, and analysts.
Protecting Our Children
Earlier this month, FDLE hosted the 2022 Florida Crimes Against Children conference in Orlando. More than 800 attendees from throughout the world attended to learn about best investigative practices and emerging crime trends on human trafficking, online exploitation, and computer forensics techniques.
Training Florida’s Law Enforcement Community
Sworn Training Unit
This year, FDLE’s Specialized Training Unit trained more than 1,000 law enforcement officers from more than 100 local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies on Officer Ambush and Active Shooter Training. Classes, developed by the unit, are offered at no cost to law enforcement agencies across Florida. The Officer Ambush course was developed after the nationwide rise in ambushes on officers sitting in their vehicles. The Active Shooter course is a training program for single-officer response and is a train-the-trainer program. Courses consist of classroom work, firearms training, and staged but realistic scenarios each officer must complete. Several participants have contacted instructors to say they credit the training for saving their lives.
Autism Awareness Training for Dispatchers
FDLE’s Missing Endangered Persons Information Clearinghouse (MEPIC) launched a new course in January for Florida’s 911 telecommunicators to assist in the safe recovery of children with autism who go missing. This training outlines the steps telecommunicators should use, including what questions to ask, when determining whether a reported missing child may have the signs of autism spectrum disorder.
Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission (CJSTC)
FDLE members working in Criminal Justice Professionalism assisted the CJSTC in developing several new courses for Florida law enforcement officers. The new courses include training officers on response to sexual offenses and best practices when working with victims of sexual offenses. The training, developed in consultation with the Florida Council Against Sexual Violence, was launched in May. FDLE members also developed training on Behavioral Threat Assessment and Management (BTAM), one advanced 40-hour course, and an overview of BTAM for frontline officers.
Forensic Laboratory Outreach and Training
Forensic Lab members continue their outreach to law enforcement and state attorney offices, offering over 200 hours of training in 2022 through forensic service seminars, meetings, and virtual training reaching over 1,300 attendees. Training is designed to educate our partners on the forensic services FDLE provides and how those services can impact their investigations.
Issuing Florida Purple Alerts
FDLE began issuing Purple Alerts in Florida on July 1. The Purple Alert is used to assist in locating missing adults suffering from mental or cognitive disabilities, intellectual or developmental disabilities. Since July, nearly 150 alerts have been issued.
As Florida’s law enforcement agencies continue to transition from summary-based crime reporting to the more-detailed incident-based reporting, FDLE’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division provided subject matter expertise to individual agencies and held informational sessions throughout Florida in 2022 including a round of fall meetings reaching over 800 attendees. Because agency transition efforts are specific to the agency and dependent upon many factors (IT support, software product, vendor support, software age capability, etc.), transition time varies. Thirty Florida agencies completed the transition to incident-based reporting in 2022, and more than 150 are in the process of transitioning.
Florida Officer Discipline Database
In June, FDLE’s Criminal Justice Professionalism section launched a new searchable database of officer discipline. The database improves access to the public and contains the same information published in the CJSTC Quarterly Update. Users can search specific timeframes, agencies, respondent names, certification types, disciplinary actions, or offenses.
FDLE Website Upgrade
FDLE overhauled its website, making information easier to find for our law enforcement partners and citizens. The update includes an upgraded search engine, easy access to the most-visited pages, and integration with our Facebook social media feed.
Crime Labs Leading the Nation
The FDLE Biology discipline implemented a multi-year effort to convert from a manual and paper-driven casework strategy to a paperless and enhanced digital strategy to improve efficiency and increase the speed of completing tasks between regions. Friction Ridge is implementing an advanced latent print searching tool that is already improving efficiency and quality in casework strategy.
Familial Search and Genetic Genealogy Programs Solve Cold Cases
The Familial Search Program completed eight familial DNA searches with two leads being generated – a 25 percent success rate! The Genetic Genealogy Program accepted seven new cases in 2022 and currently has 32 active cases including three unidentified homicide victims. There were seven cases solved including four homicides, a sexual assault, and two unidentified homicide victims.