Florida Public Safety Institute
Prior to 1967, some law enforcement training was provided in Florida by organized academies in agencies located in the larger metropolitan areas, but most training for law enforcement officers was accomplished on the job. Two problems plagued law enforcement training efforts at the time. First, there was no standardized, uniform curriculum offered statewide. Second, the formal training that did exist was not available to all agencies within a reasonable commuting distance.
June 21, 1967, Governor Claude Kirk signed into law the Police Standards Act. That Act required training be provided according to a standardized program for all law enforcement officers in Florida. It also set certain standards for employment as a law enforcement officer. Implementation of the Act was facilitated using the vocational-technical schools and community colleges already in place, and by incorporating the individual law enforcement agencies already engaged in the delivery of training for law enforcement officers throughout the State.
In this area of the state, the Lewis M. Lively Area Vocational-Technical Center in Tallahassee was one of the original locations certified to offer training to law enforcement agencies in a six-county region of the state. A Law Enforcement Department of one full-time person was established and the first 200-hour basic recruit class started on October 1, 1968 in an existing classroom at the Vo-Tech Center. To accommodate the expansion of training programs in the early 1970s, the Vo-Tech first built a portable classroom building and later moved to Park 20 West Office Plaza in Tallahassee where it had three classrooms.
Meanwhile, the Florida Police Academy Act of 1969 had been passed, which called for the establishment of a state law enforcement training academy and created a funding mechanism to realize that goal. Every person convicted of violating a law in Florida, except parking offenses, was assessed one dollar that was credited to the Act's account. All monies collected were for the sole purpose of providing training or for the construction of academy facilities.
To help realize that goal, Gadsden County donated 375 acres of land to the State of Florida to be used as the site for the state police academy. The Act was later repealed in 1974 due to difficulties in implementing the provisions of the law as written but at the time of its repeal, the Act had an accumulated balance of $3,032,852.
In 1976, Lively Vo-Tech was projecting construction of a law enforcement training facility on its campus consisting of four classrooms, a darkroom, laboratories, and office space. Instead, with the assistance of the Governor's Office, the Leon County School Board, the Gadsden County Commission, Senator Pat Thomas of Quincy, and others, the property in Gadsden County was leased to the Leon County School Board for 99 years to be used for regional training.
Once plans for construction were approved, work on the original Administration Building of the Law Enforcement Training and Education Center began March 31, 1976. In the subsequent years, the Academy added firearms ranges, driving ranges, an on-site cafeteria, a 64-bed housing facility, a man-made lake, and other improvements. In honor of the role played by Senator Pat Thomas the Lively Law Enforcement Academy was renamed the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy (PTLEA) in 1996 in recognition of the support shown by Florida Senator Thomas to criminal justice in Florida and for the personal attention he had shown to the Academy in his home county. Beginning with his leadership in acquiring the current site for the Academy in 1970 and ending with his death on June 21, 2000, he was tireless in advocating for professionalism in criminal justice.
July 1, 1999 the Florida Legislature transferred the ownership of the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy from Lively Vo-Tech to the Tallahassee Community College (TCC). Moving the Academy from the K12 system within the Department of Education to the college system for adults created a new and better alignment of the mission of the Academy with the job related training it provided.
In 2002, then-Governor Jeb Bush launched an effort focused on improving three areas of state law enforcement functions: telecommunications operations, use of state aircraft, and state law enforcement training. TCC submitted a white paper describing the potential benefits and cost savings that could be realized if state law enforcement training were to be consolidated at the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy site. The proposal provided for complete control of the training by each agency but put the Academy in the role of achieving efficiencies by collocating resources used for training.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Academy was already located at PTLEA, and in 2003 the construction of a new Administration Building and Classroom Building was completed, setting the stage for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Academy, Department of Transportation Motor Carrier Compliance Training Section, Department of Environmental Protection Academy, Florida Highway Patrol Academy, Department of Financial Services Training Section, Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Training Section, Department of Juvenile Justice Training Section, as well as the Leon County Sheriff's Office and Tallahassee Police Department Training sections to move into a single building at PTLEA.
Activities continued to grow at PTLEA and the Dining Facility was expanded to accommodate 600 students at any single time, a new housing facility with 200 individual sleeping rooms was constructed, an explosives range was built, an environmental crime training complex was established, and other infrastructure elements were added to support agency training needs.
Programs were expanded to include a national effort designed to train law enforcement intelligence analysts, a telecommunications program, private security training, dual enrollment programs with area high schools, correctional probation training, grant funded training for Florida law enforcement officers in the area of traffic safety and alcohol offense enforcement.
In 2007, the Academy partnered with the Tallahassee Fire Department to establish the Tallahassee Fire Academy (TFA). The TFA provides state-approved training to those seeking employment as a firefighter in the state of Florida.
In 2009, the TCC District Board of Trustees, recognizing the growth at PTLEA and the changing nature of the programs offered there approved the creation of the Florida Public Safety Institute (FPSI) as the new name for the now almost 1,500 acre site in Gadsden County. The use of this "umbrella" name for the site permitted the PTLEA, as well as the other training academies located there, to coexist at a location that better described the range of professional programming offered. While the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy continued to offer cutting edge training to law enforcement, corrections, and correctional probation recruits and officers, the new branding allowed the FPSI to reach into new, broader areas of service to public safety organizations and individuals.
Also in 2009, FPSI began an expansion of its programming vision by focusing on growing continuing education efforts in three ways: attracting more officers to FPSI's campus for training, exporting training to other areas of the state and country, and moving into distance learning to reach new target audiences. In October of that year and in conjunction with the opening of the FPSI's new 11,000 square foot conference center, the campus was host to the High Liability Trainers Conference that attracted nearly 400 instructors from throughout Florida as well as from Alabama and Georgia.
Also in October, FPSI became the grant funded provider of training for Florida officers in the areas of DUI and traffic enforcement and created a Grants Support Office on site to assist in the administration of over 30 federal grants in a variety of areas of public safety.
||The earliest deed references to the property date back to 1827 when transfers of tracts upon which the academy was built were recorded from the United States of America to Henry Peebles and in 1836 to Freeman Fitzgerald. |
||Governor Claude Kirk signs into law the Police Standards Act on June 21, 1967. The Act requires training be provided according to a standardized program for all law enforcement officers in Florida. It also sets certain standards for employment as a law enforcement officer.|
||Lively Vocational-Technical School's Law Enforcement Training Center holds first class October 1, 1968, in an existing classroom on Appleyard Drive in Tallahassee. Tallahassee Community College expands its curriculum to include an Associate in Applied Science degree in Law Enforcement.|
||Florida Legislature passes Florida Police Academy Act calling for establishing a State Law Enforcement Training Academy.|
||Gadsden County donates 375-acre tract of land to the State in 1970 for development of a law enforcement training facility. |
||Leon County School Board approves placing the Law Enforcement Training and Education Center on the present Gadsden County property.|
||Officials break ground for administration building at training center in Gadsden County on March 31, 1976. |
||Florida Police Standards and Training Commission establishes Regional Training Advisory Councils, the approving authority for training center funding requests. |
||Construction completed and training center moves from Tallahassee to present location in January. |
||Extensive range facilities built in 1978|
||Cafeteria opens, providing up to three meals a day to students. |
||Legislature transfers operation of Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy to Tallahassee Community College effective July 1, 1999. |
||Range storage building opens, providing 22,000 square feet of ammunition and vehicle storage. Cafeteria doubled in size to accommodate increased student enrollment. 7-acre explosives ordinance training range constructed.|
||Tallahassee Community College Board of Trustees approves first-of-a-kind "Performance Guarantee" for graduates of Academy basic recruit training.|
||Florida Legislature approves $8,000,000 to construct consolidated training infrastructure at the Academy site to support all State law enforcement training as well as local law enforcement and corrections training.|
||Tallahassee Community College Board of Trustees purchases additional land to support Academy programming, bringing the campus to 1300 acres in size.|
||The Academy partnered with the Tallahassee Fire Department to establish the Tallahassee Fire Academy|