Captain Michael Howell is a native of Walton County and a 19 year law enforcement veteran having served in both state and local agencies. He began his career as a police officer with the DeFuniak Springs Police Department before being appointed deputy sheriff with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office in 1995.
In 1998, he joined the Florida Department of Transportation’s Commercial Vehicle Enforcement Division, where he was selected as a canine handler and drug interdiction officer and liaison for highway interdiction efforts with the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), El Paso Information Center (EPIC), and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). He was selected as the agency’s canine instructor and received intensive training at the U.S. Border Patrol Training Academy in El Paso, Texas.
Captain Howell joined Sheriff Adkinson’ s administration in January of 2009 as special operations commander, managing the beach patrol, traffic enforcement, K-9 teams, and marine unit functions. He also served as patrol watch commander and criminal investigations commander, leading all investigative functions including person’s crimes, property crimes, narcotics/vice, and crime scene/evidence. He is a graduate of the 242nd session of FBI National Academy. In 2008, he was honored with Florida’s highest award for public safety by being selected “Law Enforcement Officer of the Year” by Florida’s Attorney General and Cabinet for his success in drug interdiction cases.
Special Operations Bureau
Captain Michael Howell is the Chief of Special Operations. The bureau is staffed with 41 sworn law enforcement officers and two support personnel. In 2012, the division provided support and services for Traffic Enforcement, Beach/Marine Unit, Dive Team, Aviation Unit, Judicial Services, Civil Process, Special Enforcement Unit, Extradition, Honor Guard, Warrants, and School Resource Deputies.
The goal of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office three (3) member traffic unit is to save lives. They accomplish this through aggressive traffic enforcement of motor vehicle laws. The unit leads the agency in driving under the influence (DUI) arrests and traffic citations issued. The members attend educational seminars with local schools to include “Teen Driving Challenge” and “Traffic Safety Awareness” programs. They also conduct high saturation patrols in areas of high traffic complaints and during high volume holiday weekends. The traffic unit has members on the Community Traffic Safety Team for Walton County where citizens can voice their concerns dealing with pedestrian and vehicle traffic. All of the members have completed Traffic Homicide Investigations.
The traffic unit routinely assists with funeral escorts, school zone speed enforcement and assists the Florida Highway Patrol in conducting traffic crash investigations. Throughout the year, the traffic unit answered more than 6,500 calls for service and participated in statewide special enforcement operations such as “Click it or Ticket,” “Buckle Up in Your Truck,” and “Driver Sober or Get Pulled Over.”
• Conducted more than 3,228 traffic stops
• Wrote 2,260 traffic citations
• Issued 1,756 warnings
• 32 D.U.I. arrests
• Worked 60 traffic accidents
The Beach and Marine Unit is assigned the responsibility of ensuring safety and security on Walton County’s 26 miles of sugar white beaches as well as the county’s 180 miles of waterways.
These dedicated deputies work closely with citizens, business owners and tourists to maintain order and address any concerns. They are often the only governmental officials who interact with visitors on our pristine gulf coast.
The unit spends countless hours on boats, ATVs, wave runners and four-wheel drive trucks, patrolling the beaches and waterways. The ten deputies and one sergeant assigned to this unit are responsible for enforcing all laws and county ordinances as well as conducting water rescues and searches for lost children and adults along the beaches, waterways and surrounding areas.
THE UNIT IS EQUIPPED WITH THE FOLLOWING:
• 19-foot Cape Horn marine vessel
This vessel is equipped with FLIR system, a heat imaging system used for night operations and rescue missions, a high resolution bottom sonar device that enables us to locate submerged vessels and objects and an advanced radar system.
• 25-foot Nautica marine vessel
This vessel has inflatable pontoons which enables the boat to perform in shallow water and is a valuable asset for the dive team for search and rescue operations. It is equipped with side scan sonar.
• 16-foot Key West marine vessel
This vessel is designed to maneuver in shallow water and is utilized for bay and inland waterway patrol and operations.
• Two (2) Yamaha Wave Runners
These vessels are used for coastal and bay patrol and rescue missions.
• Five (5) All Terrain Vehicles
The ATVs are used during patrols along the coastline and to gain access to areas which are inaccessible by vehicles.
2012 Beach Patrol Highlights:
• Answered 9,939 calls for service
• Conducted 76 water rescues
• Issued 2,680 beach ordinance citations and warnings
• Issued 88 uniform traffic citations
• Made 513 arrests
Underwater Search and Recovery Team
The Underwater Search and Recovery Team specializes in the recovery of evidence in criminal investigations. The team assists state and federal agencies in the recovery of plane crashes, auto accidents and human remains. The team trains monthly using cutting-edge equipment and techniques to better serve the community. The team is an asset to the WCSO because of their ability to provide an avenue into an otherwise restricted underwater environment.
The Aviation Unit consists of one (1) pilot and three (3) tactical flight officers. These deputies spend countless hours training both day and night to help keep the citizens and visitors of Walton County safe. Utilizing an upgraded Army OH-58 helicopter, the unit missions include: aerial support, reconnaissance, search and rescue, fugitive apprehension, domestic marijuana eradication and disaster/emergency management assessments.
The helicopter is currently outfitted with the latest in thermal imaging technology, GPS, and moving map systems. Equipped with a forward looking infra-red (FLIR) system, the aircraft is able to detect the slightest heat signatures while conducting aerial searches from higher, safer altitudes. The aircraft is furnished with a 15-inch touch screen flat panel monitor, a six-inch flat panel monitor, night sun spotlight, Avelex moving map system, and Garmin GPS system, allowing the pilot and tactical flight officer to safely complete missions.
The Aviation Unit is not a full-time active unit and is on a call-out only basis. These deputies are assigned to other specialty units within the Walton County Sheriff’s Office. It is because of their commitment, dedication, and diligence that make the Aviation Unit an essential and integral part of this agency and to the citizens of Walton County.
The Aviation Unit flew over 55.9 mission hours in 2012 to include fugitive apprehension, training exercises, domestic marijuana eradication, and other calls for service.
Total missions for year 2012: 30
2012 mission numbers:
• Search and Rescue-10 flights
• Static Display/Public Relations-5 flights
• Investigations Assists-5 flights
• Marijuana Eradication-1 flight
• Other Agency Assists-3 flights
• Suspect searches-3 flights
• Storm Prep- 2 incidents
• Northwest Florida Regional Domestic Security Task Force-1 flight
The Court Security Team is staffed with six bailiffs and a supervisor. They provide protection to the county’s circuit and county judges, constitutional officers, citizens and visitors who enter the county courthouse and courthouse annex. They provide additional protection for county commission meetings, special events at the courthouse facility and security screening for constitutional offices.
In 2012, the court bailiffs provided security during the disposition of more than 10,498 cases in the criminal and civil courts of Walton County. There were well over 89,780 patrons who entered the courthouse and were greeted face to face by the bailiffs.
In addition to providing security for jurors and the general public, they maintain order in the courtrooms and judges’ chambers while court is in session. Security is observed through visual observation and the use of technologies such as electronic video and audio systems to prevent and respond to suspicious incidents.
2012 Judicial Services Highlights:
• 10,498 2012 Court Cases
The Civil Process Unit consists of two (2) full-time deputies and a civil clerk. The civil clerk is responsible for receiving and entering documents into the court’s computer database and prepares them for service. The deputies deliver the civil documents (both enforceable and non-enforceable), such as Writ of Replevin, levies, subpoenas, civil and criminal injunctions and other court ordered documents for service. The Civil Unit works closely with attorneys, clerks, judges, civilian process servers and citizens to provide efficient and effective services in accordance with the Florida Civil Statutes.
2012 Civil Process Highlights:
• Processed 5,396 civil documents
• Served 5,396 civil documents
• Enforceable Writs 186
The Special Enforcement Unit consists of two deputies and a supervisor. They serve high-risk warrants and conduct surveillance for gathering intelligence for the purpose of locating fugitives. One of the deputies is duly deputized by the US Marshals and participates in the Florida Regional Fugitive Task Force. These special deputies assist law enforcement agencies in Walton, Okaloosa, Santa Rosa, Escambia, Bay, Jackson and Washington Counties with apprehending felons who have fled those jurisdictions.
The US Marshals Service has awarded the agency grant-funding for overtime for these deputies.
The Extradition Section consists of one (1) full-time deputy who transports wanted persons from other jurisdictions and ensures inmates are transported to medical appointments out of county. The deputy coordinates fugitive transportation with contract transport companies and the state attorney’s while maintaining financial records on prisoner extradition costs for the agency.
2012 Extradition Highlights:
• Transports – 292
• Vendor-contracted Extradition Transport – 26
The Honor Guard members are a ceremonial elite unit that is dedicated to upholding the highest values and traditions of law enforcement through a display of discipline, focus and teamwork. They are under the direction of Lieutenant Artie Rodriguez. Deputy Harold Shover is the coordinator and schedules upcoming events.
Honor Guard members are committed to representing the Walton County Sheriff’s Office and their law enforcement family, both locally and nationally. They honor fallen officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice. They remain ready to serve at the direction of the Sheriff and participate at various sponsored and special events.
During 2012, the Honor Guard was requested and participated in 13 events, totaling 110 hours and spent approximately 40 hours in training. The Walton County Sheriff’s Office Honor Guard is civically minded and remembers our military veterans, as well as individuals and organizations that are dedicated to public service.
The Warrants Unit consists of two (2) clerks. They are responsible for processing criminal arrest warrants and capiases issued for the apprehension of criminal violators and civil commitment orders issued by the court.
One of the agency’s most viable crime prevention and outreach programs is the School Resource Deputy (SRD) Program. Sgt. James Pitman oversees eight (8) SRD’s who provide security for students, faculty and visitors to the Walton County school system. SRD’s provide the following training programs to students: crime prevention, community service and good citizenship. The SRD’s attend regular meetings with faculty, students, and parents to become involved in every facet of school life for the purpose of establishing student rapport, preventing crime and victimization, and to encourage healthy growth and development.
2012 School Resource Highlights:
• Calls for Service – 2,279
• Reports Written – 426
• Arrests – 59
• Number of Schools – 18