As a former police chief who ran a basic criminal justice academy in Florida, I often get questions on how to become a Florida certified and trained reserve or auxiliary police officer. This article also covers how to become a full-time police officer or deputy sheriff. Florida has been one of the more progressive states in mandating training standards for folks who serve on a volunteer or part-time basis with police and sheriffs offices throughout the Sunshine State.
Florida Highway Patrol cruiser
Among the state agencies that use volunteer cops are the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP). Municipal police department and county sheriffs offices have also long embraced the concept that is the ultimate in community policing as it puts the police in the community and the community in the police.
Varied State Standards & Titles
State certification and training standards vary greatly around the United States. Some states have little or no oversight over non-full-time officers or vastly differentiate the mandate. Other states have strong rules and in some cases, such as Arizona and North Carolina, require the same training as that expected of full-timers.
Titles also vary widely reflecting local preferences. Some of the names used for volunteer and part-time law enforcers around the country include reserve, auxiliary, special, supernumerary, and intermittent.
Florida Reserves & Auxiliaries: Differences
In Florida, reserves and auxiliaries are given two distinctly codified titles with divergent training mandates. Reserve police officers and deputy sheriffs, under 943 of the Florida statutes, are trained to the same level as that of their full-time, salaried counterparts. As a fully certified (trained and sworn in) law enforcer, the reserve and full-time law enforcement professional both have a minimum of 770 hours of basic law enforcement academy training at a Florida approved training facility. Most of them are housed within the community college system including the one I ran at Seminole Community College, located North of Orlando in Sanford, FL.
Once they pass the State Officer Certification Exam (SOCE) and are sworn in by a hiring agency, reserves in Florida, unless administratively restricted by their police chief or sheriff, have the same authority to carry firearms and enforce the law as a full-time law enforcer. They can carry firearms off duty. The training mandated by the Florida Criminal Justice Standards and Training Commission (CJSTC) and enforced by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) is the same whether the officer is paid all of the time, part of the time, or none of the time.
Auxiliaries in Florida have authority while on duty and under the supervision of a fully state certified law enforcer (reserve or full-time). This state mandate is subject to interpretation by local police chiefs and sheriffs. For example, the Florida Highway Patrol allows its auxiliary state troopers to use marked FHP cruisers solo as long as the supervision takes place via the radio.
Florida auxiliary officers, deputies, and troopers have a current minimum training mandate of 319 hours. Again, the training must be taken within an approved basic academy setting. It includes some of the same high liability (as it is called in Florida) courses taught to fully certified officers including 80 hours for firearms, 80 hours for defensive tactics, and 40 hours for first aid. The 48 hour vehicle operations course is open to local discretion and may be eliminated for a 271 hour total training requirement. Most include the vehicle operations component.
Florida State Screening Standards
Minimum screening standards for all criminal justice officers across the state of Florida are uniform. Local agencies are welcome to apply stricter criteria for hire, but may not lower the entrance hurdles. These are standards that apply to the hiring, as well as the acceptance into training programs in academies.
Pursuant to Florida Statute 943, all criminal justice sworn personnel (full-time, reserve, and auxiliary law enforcement, corrections, and corrections probation) must meet the base following base standards in order to be admitted into an approved criminal justice academy and to be eligible for hire (volunteer or paid):
High School diploma or GED for Law Enforcement or Corrections. Bachelors degree for Corrections Probation
Citizen of the United States
Pass Florida Basic Abilities Test (FBAT/CJBAT)
As per Florida Statute 943.13 (4), no felony is allowed. That includes guilty, no contest (nolo contendre), conviction, and adjudication withheld.
No misdemeanor if a person pleads guilty, no contest, or is convicted of a misdemeanor crime involving perjury or false statement.
No dishonorable discharge from the armed forces of the United States.
Pass a Physical Exam
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement oversees and inspects the approved training academies for law enforcement, corrections, and corrections probation. Here is a list they keep up of State of Florida Criminal Justice Training Centers. The state agency also oversees the certification of criminal justice officers. Here is the link: How to Become a Certified Officer in Florida.
Are Florida training standards OK compared to most other states? I certainly think that the state has been progressive in its approach. The answer is yes.