FDLE members from throughout Florida were honored in Tallahassee this week for their outstanding performances last year. Several members from Tallahassee received honors like the Excellence in Leadership award, Contribution to Criminal Justice and Capitol Police Officer of the Year.
FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass says, “FDLE has incredible members committed to thoughtful, innovative advancements that continue to make FDLE a premier law enforcement agency in Florida, and the country. These members strive to enhance our criminal justice partnerships and to find ways to improve how we keep Florida’s citizens and visitors safe. I am honored to recognize these nominees and award winners for their selfless commitment to service and excellence.”
Chief of Professional Development Chris Johnson received the Excellence in Leadership award for enhancing FDLE member professional development opportunities.
Excellence in Leadership – Chris Johnson, Chief of Professional Development, Criminal Justice Professionalism, FDLE Headquarters
Chief Chris Johnson has played an instrumental role in several new FDLE initiatives. He is known for his ability to effectively manage multiple programs, projects and tasks, giving each one the necessary oversight while allowing his staff to manage and grow. Under his leadership, the Bureau of Professional Development launched new programs and improved several existing programs all while continuing to seek new ways to meet the needs of FDLE members and the external customers served by the Florida Criminal Justice Executive Institute. His most impactful project for FDLE members is the department’s Member Development Program, a holistic plan to address member’s professional development and retention, which was created in 2021 and launched with significant success in 2022.
The FDLE crime lab toxicology sections in Tallahassee and Orlando received the Contribution to Criminal Justice award for their work on a new screening procedure reducing turnaround times.
Contribution to Criminal Justice – Toxicology, Orlando Regional Operations Center (OROC) and Tallahassee Regional Operations Center (TROC), Orlando Crime Laboratory Analyst Jennifer Lewis and Crime Laboratory Analyst Supervisor Dennis Siewert; Tallahassee Crime Laboratory Analyst Lauren Huene and Crime Laboratory Analyst Supervisor LeAndra Higginbotham
In November 2021, the toxicology discipline began using a new drug screening procedure that has greatly improved both turnaround times and sensitivity of targeted analytes. This was a culmination of a multi-year validation project spearheaded by the toxicology teams of OROC and TROC. The transition required the team to undergo an exhaustive validation project to move drug screening to a more advanced instrument, including creating and optimizing a screening method for over 70 different drugs. Members of this team put in hundreds of hours during this validation project. Since the new screening procedure went online, backlogged cases dropped almost 50% and turnaround times dropped between 22-25%. Their efforts have strengthened the scope of testing within the toxicology discipline and offer the criminal justice community an increased level of service.
Sgt. Caleb Lewis was named FDLE Capitol Police Officer of the Year for his leadership within Capitol Police.
Capitol Police Officer of the Year – Sgt. Caleb Lewis, Capitol Police
Sergeant Caleb Lewis is a dedicated and devoted member of many Capitol Police units. He served as a lead Field Training Officer, Assistant Team Leader of the Special Operations Unit, instructor in numerous disciplines, and was also involved with staffing and security during Legislative Session. In 2021, as a lead Field Training Officer, he assisted in monitoring every recruit’s development through the program, from start to finish and he voluntarily took on many responsibilities, such as new officer orientation and creating recruit field training schedules. His strong work ethic, motivation to improve himself and dedication to the team is an inspiration.
In addition, several members from Tallahassee’s Regional Operations Center and FDLE’s Information Technology Services were recognized as part of a team for the Innovation of the Year award.
Innovation of the Year – Biology Laboratory Information Management System (BIO-LIMS) Development Team, Rachel Aponte, Molly Carter, Christopher Conklin, Jennifer Eatmon, Chris Hendry, Maria Hiott, Victoria Kipker, Jack Martin, Tim Miller, Michelle Mullins, Steve Rutledge, Jillian White, Xujing Sun, Brandon Floyd, Donna Carney and Kurt Posey
With FDLE’s six regional laboratories, maintenance of forensic examination records is of the utmost importance, particularly considering the approximately 60,000 distinct cases and 1 million items of evidence handled in each calendar year. Case file storage space, cost and efficiency issues led to an initiative to go paperless, and, in 2021, the BIO-LIMS project was introduced. The BIO-LIMS team, alongside members from Information Technology Services, devoted thousands of hours, including weekends, to minimize impact to laboratory operations during normal working hours. This diverse team brought together distinct regional needs into an adaptable, innovative product that will improve consistency, minimize errors, reduce the physical paper footprint and simplify statewide quality review processes that will leave a long-lasting positive impact to FDLE’s service in the field of forensic Biology and DNA.