The History of the Seminole Police Department Motorcycle Unit
The Seminole Tribe of Florida is a Federally Recognized Indian Tribe, the only tribe in America who never signed a peace treaty.
Today the Seminole casinos support a growing infrastructure for the Seminole Community’s health and welfare, public safety, education and other services. The economic stability provided by gaming, combined with the cattle, citrus and other business enterprises, has made the Seminole Tribe of Florida one of the most successful native business in the United States. The Tribe employs more then 7,000 employees in their casinos, hotels and other enterprises and purchase more then $130.3 million in good and services yearly.
The Hollywood and Tampa reservations each have a Hard Rock Hotel and Casino, Coconut Creek, Brighton and Immokalee reservations each have a casino.
The Seminole Police Department (SPD) was established in 1981 and provides law enforcement service to seven different locations in the State of Florida; Big Cypress, Brighton, Coconut Creek, Fort Pierce, Hollywood Immokalee and Tampa. The main SPD office is located at the Hollywood reservation.
Under the leadership of Chief William R. Latchford the SPD is a full-service law enforcement agency with 155 sworn and 55 non-sworn employees.
The SPD currently has 4 Harley-Davidson Electric Glide’s with anti-lock brakes and a screaming eagle performance package. The motorcycles are two-tone in color; black with an insert of sierra red outlined by a double gold pin stripe.
The SPD participates in a lease program offered by Phil Peterson’s Harley-Davidson in Miami. The lease program offers the
SPD the best value for day to day operations with very little concern.
Chief Latchford and the Command Staff of SPD are strong supporters of the daily direction, training and special event participation of the motors.
The primary assignment for most motorcycle officer’s is traffic enforcement however at SPD the philosophy of community policing is not just a “buzz” word used in the community but a true concept that is used to accomplish our mission statement.
With the vision of SPD the primary assignment for SPD motors is as follows:
- 1) Community Policing
- 2) Escorts
- 3) Special Events
- 4) Traffic Enforcement
The Motors could travel to any of the six reservations for any authorized assignment. Recently a memorial motorcycle escort was conducted which traveled over 130 miles to include Urban, Interstate and Rural roadways.
When conducting various escorts SPD will use a police vehicle for the lead and tail of the package, if necessary fixed assets will be posted at pre-determined intersections and then the 4 motors will provide a safe leap frog method of traffic control.
Selection of Personnel
The first step of selection is the posting of a position announcement to establish an eligibility list. The interested officer must have a positive endorsement from their immediate supervisor and have a minimum of one year of road patrol experience.
An interview process is then conducted with targeted questions.
The targeted questions relate to attitude, command presence, interpersonal relations, oral presentation, leadership, teamwork, traffic enforcement and a few basic motorcycle operational questions.
A check with Internal Affairs is conducted to ensure that a potential problem is not placed into a motorcycle position which requires a great deal of community contact. Another check and balance is reviewing past evaluations and speaking with past and immediate supervisors on the individual candidate.
Past performance will predict future performance.
A candidate may perform outstanding in the interview; however, the IA check or supervisory discussion could lower or remove that individual from the eligibility list.
All candidates must have a valid motorcycle endorsement prior to attending training.
Instructors for the SPD hold instructor certificates from the Institute of Police Technology and Management – Jacksonville, FL, Florida Public Safety Institute – Havana, Fl and the San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department – San Bernardino, CA.
The true value of having all three training institutes involved in course development is the variety of training philosophies, concepts and procedures.
All good instructors must realize that there is more than one way to perform a certain task. Therefore, by combining different ideas and then adding in actual experience SPD provides a dynamic realistic course.
All SPD motor officers have attended a practical relevant yet very challenging two week motorcycle training course. This course is designed to provide the student with the necessary skills to operate in a slow confined area or avoid a potential accident while traveling at 40 miles per hour.
Phase two of training is a 2-4 week Field Training Officer program where the new motor officer will ride with different instructors or senior motor officers to learn the necessary street sense while working as a motor officer. Upon completion of the FTO program additional documentation is completed which will become part of the officers training file.
Each officer is required to attend eight (8) hours of monthly in-service training. This monthly training will consist of basic and advanced cone pattern work and more important accident avoidance exercises.
The most important item for any instructor to remember during in-service is to have a plan, provide direction and lead by example. Provide those in attendance with various small tasks which must be completed prior to any “side stand” breaks or moving onto another method of instruction. Setting up cones and telling your team to go ride will only set you up for failure.
In addition to cone pattern work and accident avoidance exercises each SPD motor officer will receive eight hours of tactical training per year with the motorcycle which includes live firearm drills and role play force on force based training.
This reality based training is conducted in a traffic stop environment with numerous planned scripts; however, each script will change direction depending on the officer’s actions.
To provide realism to training Simunition marking cartridges (FX rounds) are used to provide a sense of “real time” to the scenario.
In training all aspects of the job must be accomplished and a easy way to understand this concept visualize a triangle with each of the three sides of equal value.
One the left side is Accident Avoidance Exercises, on the right side is Cone Patterns and on the bottom is Street Survival. Each side is then broken down in various objectives to ensure the officers are receiving quality relevant training.
Remember advanced training is mastering the basics and you and I will never mater the basics!
Jim Polan is a 29 year veteran of Law Enforcement, a retired Captain from the Fort Lauderdale Police Department/Florida and a current Captain with the Seminole Police Department/Florida.
Information and Photos provided by the Seminole, FL Police Department.