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Watson files bill to fund law enforcement training at CSI Academy of Florida

BY JENNIFER CABRERA / OCTOBER 25, 2019

State Representative Clovis Watson has filed HB 2339 for the 2020 legislative session, requesting $2.1 million in funding for a Law Enforcement Crime Scene Investigation Training Initiative (LECSITI) at the CSI Academy of Florida. 

CSI Academy, a 501(c)(3) non-profit, is located on US Hwy 441 in the city of Alachua, and they specialize in law enforcement training, including learning how to recognize, collect, and preserve evidence from real-life crime scene reenactments. 

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According to the bill, “The purpose of the LECSITI Program is to provide innovative training in the field of crime scene investigation to Florida law enforcement. Instructing participants in the fundamental principles of crime scene investigation allows them to be better prepared to identify, process, investigate, and solve crimes, which can help reduce and prevent both violent and non-violent crimes. Any member of any Florida law enforcement agency will be able to take this training for free.”

The program will offer an average of 3 courses per month, 12 months per year, on specialized topics in crime scene investigation, including introduction to crime scene investigation, bloodstain pattern analysis, human remains recovery, shooting incident reconstruction, fire and arson investigation, and others. The bill says,“This should help to improve the solve rates of crimes, reduce the overall crime rate, and – in turn – promote general citizen safety and security.” Also according to the bill, CSI indicates that they hope to receive funding in future years, estimating $3-10 million in the next 5 years after FY21 and more than $10 million over all years. 

The money will go to:

  • Executive Director ($125k)
  • 3 other full-time employees, including 2 instructors ($240k)
  • A box truck, some new equipment, and travel costs for instructors ($255k)
  • 2 clerical employees ($78k)
  • Expendable supplies, equipment maintenance, accommodations for students participating in the program, and rental of the CSI facility at $10k/month ($484k)
  • Part-time instructors ($168k)
  • Renovations to CSI’s classrooms, bathrooms, and general facility to accommodate the increased number of students ($750k)

Debra Mongiardo of CSI said that law enforcement budgets have been slashed, and there’s not enough funding for training. This bill would provide that training to those agencies without impacting their training budgets. 

Ms. Mongiardo indicated that she had letters of support from a long list of law enforcement agencies, including the Alachua County Sheriff, but when we asked Sheriff Darnell for comment, she said, “I support quality, certified forensic training. However, I was not given the courtesy of being made aware of the bill’s existence and need the opportunity to review its contents.”

The bill has been referred to the Justice Appropriations Subcommittee but has not been heard yet. Clovis Watson has announced that he will run for Alachua County Sheriff in 2020.

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