White Springs, Florida
White Springs, Florida
Bureau of Uniform Services
Historical Background of the Uniformed Section
Throughout the 1920s and 1930s, the state of Florida experienced periods of great growth, as well as a Depression. The great land boom of the 1920s gave rise to an interest in farming and agriculture, but during times of depression, the economy of Florida faltered. By 1934, Florida experienced great advances in growth and agricultural development. As more agricultural livestock and goods were being produced and consumed, and more citrus groves were being planted, Florida and the United States government passed laws protecting both consumers and agricultural related industries.
The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services began inspecting shipments of agricultural products in 1935 by statutory mandate which authorized agricultural inspectors to stop and inspect any shipment of citrus fruit. The purpose of these inspections was to ensure that all shipments of citrus complied with standards established by the Florida Citrus Commission or by the United States Department of Agriculture. Roadside inspection was established on six major highways crossing the Suwannee and St. Mary's Rivers. These two rivers form a natural boundary well north of the citrus and vegetable production areas in the southern part of the state. The inspection process was originally known as the "Florida Central", but later the name was changed to "Road Guards".
Originally, most inspection stations were operated by local citizens, generally farmers, and during the depression years this was a source of supplemental income for them. The vast majority of inspection stations were housed in tents and used kerosene lanterns for lighting and flashlights to waive vehicles down. Inspectors used their own personal vehicles, if they had one, to chase down those failing to stop.
From the inception of the Division of Inspections and up until 1951, the inspection stations were open only during the prime citrus production season. As result of increased markets and demand for Florida products, additional laws concerning fruit and vegetable inspections were passed. In 1951 the inspection stations began operating 24 hours a day, year round.
In 1959 the Legislature passed Chapter 5954, Laws of Florida, which created the Road Guard section within the Division of Inspection. It later became the Bureau of Road Guards, and was responsible for operating and managing agricultural inspection stations. Over a period of time, road guards were assigned additional inspection responsibilities related to the shipment of other agricultural, horticultural, and livestock products. The primary purpose of the Bureau of Road Guards' Agricultural Inspection Program was, through the inspection of certain documents and searches of vehicles, to enforce laws, rules, and regulations promulgated by the Legislature and FDACS pertaining to the movement of agricultural, horticultural, and livestock products.
Agricultural inspection activities performed by the road guards were of two types: regulatory and law enforcement. Regulatory activities included inspection of vehicles and examination of shipping documents and inspection certificates (which were intended to ensure that products carried complied with industry and government standards and were free of disease) and the collection of statistical data for use by industries and by government entities. Law enforcement activities consisted in the pursuit and apprehension of drivers who were required but failed to stop for inspection.
In 1975 the Legislature created s. 570.15, F.S., giving the personnel within the Road Guard Bureau the authority to inspect certain vehicles and making the agricultural inspectors, "Special Road Guard Officers". The legislation also provided for inspectors to attend a limited Police Standards Training School which upon successful completion would enable them to carry firearms.
In 1981, as a result of the risks involved in various law enforcement activities performed by the road guards, the department, upon approval by the Department of Administration, increased the job qualifications for future guards to include completion of the 320hour Police Standards Training Program. Pursuant to the passage of s. 570.151, F.S., the agricultural inspectors evolved into "Road Guard Inspection Special Officers".
By 1992 FDACS had over 200 law enforcement officers in three different divisions. At that time the Commissioner of Agriculture presented a plan for department restructuring to the Legislature which resulted in the enactment of s. 570.073, F.S., creating the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement. The new entity consolidated all law enforcement functions, which resulted in a more efficient use of resources and law enforcement personnel. The Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement consists of three bureaus. The Bureau of Uniform Services, which was formerly referred to as the Road Guard Bureau; the Bureau of Investigative Services, and the Bureau of Administrative Services.
In 2002 officers employed by the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement received full law enforcement authority. The Bureau of Uniform Services currently consists of 215 professional sworn personnel who staff 23 Agricultural Inspection Stations.
The Bureau conducts many tasks in addition to the traditional core mission of protecting Florida agriculture. The bureau performs domestic security operations and was responsible for the seizure of over eight million dollars in narcotics and stolen property last fiscal year.
In addition to the Inspection Stations, this Bureau includes the VACIS (Vehicle and Cargo Inspection System) Unit, which utilizes the latest gamma ray technology to enhance the inspection capabilities at various agency interdiction stations located on highways leading into the state. The Unit also participates in national, federal, and state security events.