MILTON — The Santa Rosa Sheriff's Office’s Citizens Law Enforcement Academy began Thursday with a brief presentation on the history of the SRSO before discussion of the elements of patrol and the deputy’s uniform by Patrol Capt. Blevins Davis.
The Sheriff’s Office celebrates 175 years in existence this year; it's the second oldest in the state, according to Sheriff Bob Johnson. It’s also three years older than the state, Davis said.
The first sheriff was Jessie Allen, who served from 1842 to 1845, when Santa Rosa County still contained Okaloosa County, according to Davis.
Davis covered the sheriffs from the Civil War and prohibition through to the modern period. Sheriff Bart Broxson served from 1957 to 1959 when he died in office, according to Davis. Broxson’s wife, Annie, served in 1959, as the first female sheriff, before her son John served as sheriff from 1959 to 1961.
Davis moved to the cost of putting a deputy on patrol. With the cost of the car, equipment, pay and benefits, the total per deputy starting out is $92,371.99.
The various districts have their own difficulties, whether it’s the Navarre Beach Causeway delaying traffic in the southern districts, unlocked cars in the Pace district, or the sheer size of the 500-square-mile northern district.
The Florida Highway Patrol would be helping more in the county if not for staff shortages, Davis said.
“(The FHP) is 40 officers short. It could take (an officer) three hours to get here,” Davis said. “They’re 4,000 officers short for the state.”
Davis also discussed Santa Rosa County’s staffing shortages compared to the national average.
The FBI lists optimal staffing at 2.7 officers per 1,000 residents, according to Davis. If Santa Rosa County had 2.7 officers per 1,000 inhabitants, that would be 432 officers. However, the county is at 200 sworn officers, Davis said.
Davis’ last section of the class was reviewing various kinds of bulletproof vests and the deputy’s gun belt.