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The Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute: A Bellwether for Leadership Training in Florida

David Brand, Internal Affairs Commander (Retired), Tallahassee, Florida, Police Department; and Director, Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute, Florida Department of Law Enforcement

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eadership training is one of the consistently identified needs in law enforcement training. Trends emerge and issues develop; however, without trained leaders, a criminal justice agency not only can falter, but can actually fail. When responsible for safeguarding citizens, their property, and their constitutional rights, failure is simply unacceptable. The state of Florida and the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute (FCJEI) have pioneered leadership training for criminal justice executives and have, over the past 20 years, developed a model for other states to follow.

FCJEI Development

In 1989, an advisory committee, appointed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner, was impaneled to guide the development and delivery of external training to criminal justice agencies. This committee comprised three sheriffs and three police chiefs. By the fall of 1989, the committee had the endorsement of the Florida Police Chiefs Association Executive Committee and the Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission. With the support of these groups, the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute was created by the 1990 Florida legislature “for the purpose of providing such training as is deemed necessary to prepare the state’s present and future criminal justice executives to deal with the complex issues facing the state.”1

According to James D. Sewell, retired assistant commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the first director of the FCJEI, five key decisions were made to provide direction for program delivery.

  1. The institute should always utilize a cutting-edge faculty.

  2. The institute should focus on classroom and after-hours discussions that would challenge the participants.

  3. Use of an interdisciplinary approach should include all of the criminal justice professions, including law enforcement, corrections, the judiciary, medical examiners, prosecutors, and public defenders.

  4. Participants should recognize that because the curriculum should always be “futures” oriented, it should be considered a work in progress tailored to the changing needs of the criminal justice system.

  5. The programs should always be focused on the educational process—not simply training—and should involve a commitment from the participants, the faculty, and the staff.2

Authority and Direction

Florida Statute § 943.1755 and Florida Administrative Code Rule 11K–1.003 provide the legal authority that support the mission and actions of the FCJEI.3 The governing statute places the institute under the administrative control of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and creates a policy board comprising the following 12 members:

  • The executive director of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement

  • The secretary of corrections

  • The commissioner of education or an employee of the Department of Education, designated by the commissioner

  • The secretary of juvenile justice

  • Three chiefs of municipal police departments nominated by the Florida Police Chiefs Association

  • Three sheriffs nominated by the Florida Sheriffs Association

  • A county jail administrator nominated by the Florida Sheriffs Association and the Florida Association of Counties

  • A representative nominated by the State Law Enforcement Chiefs’ Association

Those members designated by statute assume the position on the policy board by virtue of appointment to their respective positions. The remaining eight members are approved by the Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission and serve two-year terms. The policy board assesses the programs that are delivered by staff and provides advice for changes and adjustments to the curriculum.


The mission of the FCJEI is to deliver executive-level education to Florida criminal justice executives, conduct research involving emerging trends and issues, and deliver seminars and workshops to criminal justice professionals. According to Walter McNeil, secretary of the Florida Department of Corrections, a member of the FCJEI Policy Board, and the first vice president of the IACP, one of the benefits of the FCJEI model involves having representatives of different disciplines participating and networking with each other to address common issues.4

To accomplish this mission, programs are developed and delivered to four levels: chiefs, sheriffs and the immediate adjutants within the agencies, middle managers, and first-line supervisors and criminal justice practitioners. According to Steve Casey, executive director of the Florida Sheriffs Association, the classes are tailored to the needs of the leaders at every level of the organization, which, in turn, creates a natural progression of leadership skills and success for the organization and the community.5 The information that first-line supervisors need to do their jobs is different from the information that captains or majors need because the demands placed on the leaders are different at each level. Dennis Jones, chief of the Tallahassee, Florida, Police Department, a member of the FCJEI policy board, and the third vice president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, noted that the programs foster a training environment, a study of best practices, and networking that is beneficial for command staff–level officers.6

  • The Chief Executive Seminar is a three-week program for chiefs, sheriffs, and their immediate adjutants that focuses on an organized study of the future, organizational realities, and the challenges that come with being the chief executive officer of a criminal justice agency. Each delivery hosts approximately 25 participants. Class number 43 graduated in April 2010.

  • The Future Studies Program and the Senior Leadership Program are four- and seven-weeks, respectively. These programs are for middle managers who are expected to rise in the ranks, and participation must be endorsed by the chief executive officer. These programs concentrate on leadership, defining the future, the leadership of change, and research design. Each participant is required to identify an emerging trend or issue, conduct research involving a specific survey model, and develop empirical data. These research papers are then made available within the criminal justice community. The Future Studies Program recently graduated its charter class, and the Senior Leadership Program has graduated 13 classes as of 2010.

  • The Florida Leadership Academy prepares first-line supervisors to exemplify the character and integrity expected of criminal justice professionals by exposing the participants to ethical dilemmas that are common in criminal justice. The curriculum also provides insight into proactive problem solving, effective communication, and related leadership skills. This program is four weeks long and is delivered on-site at various venues around the state. The Florida Leadership Academy graduated class number 16 in June 2010.

  • The Continuing Executive Development Program offers courses on-site around the state on a fee basis to any personnel level within an agency. The courses are determined by the emerging trends and issues the criminal justice executives and practitioners face. Examples include terrorism, budgeting, officer discipline, and child exploitation.

All of these programs are delivered in face-to-face settings and encourage networking and a free exchange of ideas both inside and outside of the classroom.

Online Training

To meet the need for high-quality training during a time of reduced budgets, many criminal justice agencies have begun to consider online training more seriously than ever before. Some might say that current circumstances forced law enforcement, as a profession, to think smarter about its classroom training paradigm.

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom. . . .”7 Much like Charles Dickens wrote in his recount of the French Revolution, the modern world finds itself in changing times. The passage of Amendment 1 in Florida, which resulted in a restructuring of property tax assessments, a decreased real estate market, a depressed global economy, a shaky stock market, and increasing costs, has created a perfect storm for diminishing the financial resources of criminal justice agencies. Under circumstances reminiscent of the passage of Proposition 13 in California in the late 1970s, resources in many agencies, both budgetary and personnel, which were available for training two years ago, have been redirected to perform the operational duties of preventing and investigating crimes. This did not, however, diminish the responsibility of criminal justice agencies to provide training, not only to protect their own officers and lessen the probability of civil lawsuits, but to provide the level of service that Floridians deserve.

Florida officers are required to complete a minimum of 40 hours of continuing education every four years. Some of these hours involve mandatory curriculum, designated in the Florida Administrative Code, and the remaining hours are designated by the agency head. The cost of training involves not only tuition fees but also the costs involved with the loss of the officer’s physical presence in the workplace and the costs associated with scheduling another officer to work in place of the officer who is attending training. Regardless of whether the affected agency is a small police department or a larger state operation, these costs can be enormous.

In 2008, in order to meet this need, the FCJEI staff shifted resources and began to develop and produce online training. This shift from exclusive face-to-face classroom delivery to a distance learning model was initially intended to be a temporary bridge to help agencies access education during tough financial times. However, since its inception, online training has increased in popularity and has moved from being an ancillary option to the primary method of training for some agencies. In 2010, the FCJEI staff was awarded a prestigious Prudential-Davis Productivity Award for service and creativity. This award is granted by a private industry consortium in Florida that assesses government programs for effectiveness and efficiency.

The FCJEI has a library of distance learning courses that are offered to Florida criminal justice agencies free of charge. From its inception through July 2010, the FCJEI has served 18,246 students at 231 agencies with 37,735 hours of training being delivered.8

The FCJEI website can be viewed at

Lessons Learned

Institutes of learning are not merely created; they evolve over time after identifying, meeting, and accepting challenges on a continuum. After monitoring the inner workings, the programs, the methodologies, and the politics involved with the FCJEI over a number of years and managing it for the past five years, the author has several observations to share with any agency that endeavors to create a similar school.

  1. Have a champion for your cause. This must be an individual or a constituency group that understands the program’s needs and will use influence to create, build, and fund a response to it. Champions for the cause must be sought out.

  2. There must be a reward system or public acknowledgment for your champion. If individuals or groups expend political capital to achieve a purpose, there needs to be an expressed acknowledgment for their efforts.

  3. Have a law that creates and maintains the school. If the school involves a state agency, endeavor to have a statute passed that creates and supports it. This not only spreads ownership of the school’s activities but also supports funding, especially during times when resources are dwindling.

  4. Establish and maintain a policy board. Codify the membership and method of appointment into the supporting statute or, in the case of a municipal agency, the ordinance. The policy board provides professional credibility.

  5. Remain in touch with graduates. They can be your greatest ambassadors, especially if they are kept aware of new programs and are encouraged to network with each other.

  6. Conduct and publish research on emerging trends. Those who are published become recognized as the experts.

  7. Tailor each program to the specific needs of the participants. If the programs are designed to meet the needs at each level of leadership, they will create a natural progression of leadership skills and success for the organization and the community.

  8. Focus on delivering a leadership model as opposed to simply training. Many sources offer a wide range of training; however, focusing on leadership can make a program unique.

The Future

Some of the emerging dialogue from law enforcement leadership involves managing criminal justice agencies during a financial crisis, addressing increased gun violence directed towards law enforcement officers, and enforcing border security laws while protecting the rights of individuals.9 Resolution to these issues requires sound leadership at every level to ensure that limited resources are used in the most effective and efficient ways. ■


1Florida Senate, Department of Law Enforcement Act, Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute, 47 Fla. Stat.§ 943.1755, (accessed September 28, 2010).
2James D. Sewell, personal communication with author, October 19, 2005.
3Florida Statute, § 943.1755; and Florida Administrative Weekly & Florida Administrative Code, Rule 11K–1.003, (accessed September 28, 2010).
4Walter McNeil, personal communication with author, July 7, 2010.
5Steve Casey, personal communication with author, July 6, 2010.
6Dennis Jones, personal communication with author, July 8, 2010.
7Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities (New York: New American Library, 1997).
8Florida Department of Law Enforcement Bureau of Professional Development internal records.
9Walter McNeil, personal communication.

Please cite as:

David Brand, "The Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute: A Bellwether for Leadership Training in Florida," The Police Chief 77 (November 2010): 18–22, (insert access date).



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXVII, no. 11, November 2010. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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