One Badge. Limitless Opportunities. That’s the promise Volusia County Sheriff Mike Chitwood made in early 2021 when his department’s new training academy was announced–– in large part to address the challenge of filling vacancies.
For decades, the Volusia sheriff’s office has relied on outside institutions to provide basic law enforcement training to deputy recruits, sometimes with mixed results. Chitwood said previously-trained recruits were not meeting the standards of his agency, especially in the areas of body camera use, community policing, cultural diversity, de-escalating tense situations and implicit bias. In addition, when law enforcement members from out of state wanted to transfer to Florida, they had to go to a county outside Volusia County for training––and too often, they never came back.
In response, the Volusia Sheriff’s Department focused its efforts on three things; leveraging the brand of the organization as a top law enforcement organization, creating a process for out-of-state members of law enforcement to plug into Volusia County and speeding up the training process for new recruits.
Winning approval from state officials, the new program not only meets agency standards but also works to allow recruits to start their law enforcement careers without having to pay for basic classes out-of-pocket, increase the level of training and streamline the hiring process.
From the day you’re selected for hire at the Volusia Sheriff’s Office, we’ll pay you, train you and prepare you for a successful, rewarding career in modern law enforcement,” Chitwood told potential sheriff officers in a release upon the approval.
“We’re investing in you from the beginning. We’ve put together a training program that’s second to none. This morning, the state Criminal Justice Standards & Training Commission gave us final approval. We are fully certified to recruit, hire and train our own deputies. You don’t pay us to go to school – we pay you.”
The sheriff also credited strong support from Sen. Tom Wright (R-New Smyrna Beach) in gaining academy approval.
The facility, which opened in June 2021, is run by second-generation Volusia Sheriff’s Deputy, Capt. Brian Bosco.
Bosco, training commander, has been in law enforcement for the past 24 years, all of them with the sheriff’s department.
“I hope the community is seeing that the training academy is shaping the future of the Sheriff’s Office, and the Sheriff’s Office is one of the keys to a safe and prosperous place for people to live, work and raise a family,” says Bosco.
“We have had so much community support for this academy from the very beginning – all over the building, you will find names of businesses and private donors who paid for facilities, renovations, equipment and more.
“And today, when we go out on one of our ‘community runs’ for a few miles with the recruits, we see people come outside and clap and cheer. So the support we receive is a huge factor in why we were successful in launching this academy and why I think we’ll be successful in producing great deputies who love Volusia County for years to come.”
Hundreds of applicants first applied to the academy when it opened, and 21 were accepted, learning through classroom techniques and scenario-based training. In late 2021, 20 new deputies were added to the force.
One of the new recruit inductees is Deputy Lindsay Campbell. Campbell was sworn in as a deputy in late 2021 after serving some 15 years in the department, first as a law enforcement dispatcher, then as a Crime and Intelligence Analyst.
“I was actually one of the pioneering members of the Volusia County Crime Center, so I had prior knowledge of how the Sheriff’s Office approaches new projects,” says Campbell.
“I thought it would be a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to participate in a second project that had just as much potential to better the department and citizens of the county. I also wanted to be outdoors and have more of a mobile office, if you will. Additionally, I thought I could bring a set of investigative skills to patrol deputies to help them better assist the citizens of Volusia and assist with their investigations.”
Campbell said the academy was the hardest thing she’s ever done, not just physically but mentally and emotionally as well.
“The stress you’re put under from day one until graduation really does come full circle when you start field training. You realize a lot of it was to help you build your ability to hold your bearing, maintain consistency and present yourself with professionalism and a firm but fair presence.
“The academy also taught me to adapt quickly to ever-changing environments and situations. One minute we would be studying or notetaking and abruptly be called on the radio to sprint into a gym area to perform a specific set of exercises, in a specific count pattern, all while counting the repetitions in unison as loud as we could.”
Campbell’s success, and the success of the other recruits, is measured not only by test scores and performance evaluations but also by the overall caliber of the deputies produced.
“When the first class of recruits graduated and headed out on patrol assignments, they made a huge positive impression on their supervisors and fellow deputies right away. They came out eager to work, looking to make a difference, truly wanting to put their training to work and serve our community in some of our busiest districts,” Bosco says.
“We are slowly but surely filling our vacancies and usually receiving about five times as many applications as we have slots available in each recruit class.”
Campbell says more deputies are welcomed.
“I would just like to extend the invitation to those who are looking to make a difference in the community and want to challenge themselves to apply for a spot in the next Volusia Sheriff’s Office Academy Class.
“It doesn’t just prepare you for a career in law enforcement with one of the most progressive agencies in the country. It will give you life-long friends who become your family, teach you that you’re more capable than you ever realize and provide you the opportunity to make a positive difference.”