Captain Audie Rowell currently serves as the bureau chief over Professional Standards and SWAT.
Captain Rowell began his law enforcement career in 1986 and is a graduate of the 60th basic Law Enforcement Recruit Class from Lively Vo-tech School in Quincy. Fla. Captain Rowell was previously a Law Enforcement Officer with the Leon County Sheriff’s Office and Tallahassee Police Department. His experience includes patrol, vice and narcotics, internal affairs and SWAT. He has more than 2,500 hours of tactical and high risk training and is a certified law enforcement instructor, firearms instructor and rappel master. He is a decorated officer receiving a Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award, Tactical Officer of the Year Award and several meritorious service awards. Captain Rowell currently serves as an executive board member for the Region One Domestic Security Task Force Fusion Center.
He earned a B.S. degree in criminology from Florida State University and is also a graduate of the Southern Police Institute Command Officers Development Course.
Professional Standards Bureau
The Professional Standards Bureau includes SWAT, internal affairs, training, public information office, homeland security, polygraph/background, auxiliary deputies, citizen services, crime stoppers, and citizen volunteer/intern sections. The units within the bureau provide a variety of services to other bureaus and to the citizens of Walton County. The bureau is responsible for the investigation of internal and citizen-generated complaints of alleged misconduct against employees, providing in-service training to deputies, conducting firearms safety training for the general public, informing the public regarding public safety and outreach events, providing volunteer and college internship opportunities. The Preofessional Standards Bureau is further divided into the following units/programs/sections: Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT), Homeland Security, Training, Office of Internal Affairs, Polygraph Unit, Internship Program, Auxiliary Program, Office of Public Information
The Special Weapons and Tactics (SWAT) team is a multi-disciplined volunteer organization comprised of members from all agency divisions. The team is comprised of 15 or more members and includes entry, sniper and crisis negotiation teams. The SWAT team is responsible for handling various incidents, such as barricaded subjects and hostage situations, high-risk search/arrest warrant operations, dignitary protection missions and other tactical operations.
Members are required to attend 16 hours of monthly, specialized training that includes firearm proficiency and tactical operations. The SWAT team is equipped with fully automatic rifles, chemical munitions, sniper rifles and less-lethal weapons. SWAT team members are available 24 hours per day to respond to potentially dangerous incidents.
Since the tragic events on Sept. 11, 2001, Americans have been forced to change the way we live and think about the security of our nation. Because of this reality, the agency’s Homeland Security Unit provides a coordination point for all domestic security matters. Members serve on various local, state, and national homeland security committees, working groups, and task forces, including the Florida Regional Security Task Force. Concentration is placed on collecting intelligence on possible violations involving terrorism, use of weapons of mass destruction, illegal aliens and immigration issues, and conducting continual assessments on the safety and security of critical infrastructure and coastal access areas.
The mission of the Training Section is to provide all employees with training opportunities that will develop and enhance their individual skills while respecting the diversity of the individual and their unique talents. This section provides cutting-edge training that reflects current and future trends in law enforcement and prepares the individual with the skills necessary for today’s law enforcement professional.
Training is the cornerstone of the WCSO. To maintain a professional and progressive law enforcement agency, all employees must be trained and become proficient in all aspects of this profession. The training section strives to provide the highest quality training that reflects national trends in law enforcement.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) requires all state certified law enforcement officers to receive 40 hours of mandatory re-training every four years. The WCSO believes in the benefits of training and requires all deputies to attend the mandatory annual training. This training covers a broad spectrum ranging from: ethics, customer service, communications, leadership, current trends and changes in the law enforcement environment, case preparation, and officer safety (including firearms and defensive tactics).
Our training department serves as a clearing house for many types of training. Examples include: roll-call training, in-service training, mandatory training, continuing adult education, specialized training, and outside seminars and classes. In addition to the opportunities provided for our members, both sworn and non-sworn, we also provide training to the community in the form of firearms safety classes.
Number of hours of overall training for the Agency in 2012: 24147.50
Office of Internal Affairs
The Internal Affairs Office is responsible for the receipt, processing, and investigation of allegations made against members of the WCSO, whether sworn or civilian. The 2012 annual report includes a statistical analysis of all complaints, disciplinary action, use of force review and pursuit reviews conducted.
During 2012, there were thirty-two (32) complaints/disciplinary action reviews by the Internal Affairs Office:
• 15 Formal Investigations
• 16 Supervisory Investigations
• 1 Special Investigation
Findings for charges are as follows:
• 17 Sustained
• 0 Not-Sustained
• 8 Unfounded
• 2 Exonerated
• 2 Administrative Closure
Use of Force/Pursuit Review
During 2012, there were twenty-four (24) Use of Force reviews and three (3) Pursuit reviews conducted by the Internal Affairs Office. Findings were as follows:
Use of Force:
• 24 Justified
• 0 Unjustified
• 3 Justified
• 0 Unjustified
Bias Based Profiling
Bias Based Profiling is the selection of individuals based solely on a common trait of a group. This includes race, ethnic background, gender, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, age, or cultural group. If you wish to report a case of Bias Based Profiling please contact the Walton County Sheriff’s Office by email or phone. Please see the section below on how to file a complaint.
How to File a Complaint
To initiate a complaint against an employee of the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, you may contact Lieutenant Artie Rodriguez in the the Internal Affairs Section, or any supervisor of the agency. You may also obtain a Citizen Complaint Form from WCSO’s main lobby during normal business hours. The WCSO’s office is located at 752 Triple G Road in DeFuniak Springs, FL. The main number is (850) 892-8186. The Internal Affairs Section is open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.
Be sure to include all information relevant to the complaint in full detail. Include your full name, address, all of your contact numbers, names and contact information for witnesses, the names of the employee(s) involved (if known), and any information that would assist us in conducting a timely investigation.
PLEASE READ: It is against the law, and a third-degree felony, to make a complaint against a deputy sheriff that you know to be false. If you make a complaint against a deputy knowing that it is false, you can be prosecuted.
In order to accomplish this function, the unit is accountable for the following basic responsibilities:
- Internal Investigations
- Citizen Inquiries
- Special Investigations/Firearms Discharges
- Tactical Apprehension and Control (SWAT) Compliance Reviews
- Use of Force Report Compliance Reviews
- Early Warning Program
What is expected of me when my formal complaint is being investigated?
Your cooperation will be needed throughout the investigative process. You will be required to meet an investigator and provide a sworn and recorded statement under oath. In addition, your cooperation may be required in signing a medical release (if your case involves an alleged injury), providing witness information, or otherwise cooperating with the investigator.
What should I expect once my complaint is filed with Internal Affairs?
Internal Affairs will use the information you provide to conduct an initial inquiry into your complaint. This can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks depending on the allegation. You will then be notified by mail of the results of the inquiry. You will be informed in writing if the complaint will be investigated formally if there will be no further action taken, or if your complaint has been forwarded to a supervisor.
What should I expect from the Walton County Sheriffs Office if my complaint is formally investigated?
You can expect a fair, thorough, and impartial investigation if your complaint involves misconduct that is deemed by Internal Affairs to warrant a formal investigation. Finding the unbiased truth will be the goal of any internal investigation that is completed by this agency. You will be notified of the results in writing once the investigation is concluded. Most investigations are concluded within 45 days, but timeline extensions are sometimes necessary during the investigative process.
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office Polygraph Unit was created October 2012 and offers forensic polygraph support to law enforcement. The Polygraph Unit is comprised of an expertly trained and certified Forensic Polygraphist. This polygraphist provides a valuable investigative tool and is utilized for criminal investigations, pre-employment applicants and internal investigations. A total of fifty-two (52) polygraphs were conducted in 2012 with a confession rate of 90%, saving the agency numerous investigative hours and money.
Forensic polygraph examinations are used daily to affirm or dispel individuals suspected in criminal cases for law enforcement agencies. Utilizing this tool assists in narrowing investigative issues and lowers investigative expenses. The Polygraph Unit is often requested to administer examinations for the purposes of law enforcement employment. Every sworn applicant is required to submit and pass this examination prior to employment with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.
The Polygraph Unit’s polygraphist is also a certified Police Applicant Background Investigator. Before an applicant is hired, a background investigation is conducted on each applicant that applies with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.
The Polygraph Unit continues to perform at the highest level of professionalism within the Professional Standards Division. The commitment and dedication of the forensic polygraphist remains the model for the Polygraph Unit within the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.
Crime Prevention Unit
The agency’s crime prevention specialists administer many traditional prevention programs including “Neighborhood Crime Watch” and “McGruff.” Members coordinate extra-duty assignments for law enforcement members hired by the public for security-related jobs where a deputy’s presence serves a vital interest. The agency’s civilian volunteer services and reserve/auxiliary deputy programs are also coordinated by this unit.
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office strives to develop partnerships between the deputies and the community to keep Walton County safe with a strong local economy and liveable neighborhoods. How this is carried out varies greatly from area to area based on the circumstances and needs of each neighborhood. Each deputy assigned to patrol a particular area is tasked with familiarizing themselves with their area and the issues that are important to the residents and visitors of the area. Additionally, the deputies are tasked with developing solutions for the various problems they may identify. In turn, it is necessary for each citizen to be active in their neighborhood by participating in Neighborhood Watch programs, neighborhood associations, and just being good neighbors. In addition to the deputy assigned to your neighborhood and community, the Walton County Sheriff’s Office has a Crime Prevention Specialist who can assist your neighborhood, civic organization or school with your Crime Prevention needs. For more information on how you can participate in Crime Prevention call (850) 892-8186.
The Neighborhood Watch program was created to obtain citizen involvement in discouraging and preventing residential crime. Neighborhood Watch is one of the most effective and least costly ways to prevent crime and reduce fear. Creating a neighborhood watch can help reduce burglaries and robberies, and improve relations between police and the communities they serve. The success of the program depends upon a communication network with three partners: the residents, the block captain and the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.
Citizen Volunteer Unit
The Citizen Volunteer Unit focuses on individuals who wish to bring their talents and expertise wherever the WCSO finds a need. Some of the positions include administrative tasks, Neighborhood Watch and other duties. The Citizen Volunteer Unit provided approximately 3,500 hours of assistance in 2012.
The Citizen Posse Unit provides assistance with patrol, emergency services, events, public relations, K-9, special tasks and the mounted unit.
Citizen Volunteers and Posse members are required to serve a minimum of sixteen (16) hours per month. Applicant must pass a criminal history investigation and interview. Uniforms and necessary equipment will be provided by the WCSO.
The Citizen Posse Unit is a volunteer service consisting of individuals who provide non-emergency assistance to citizens and law enforcement officers. Its purpose is to save taxpayer money while providing sworn law enforcement officers with more time to respond and focus on violent criminals and complex criminal investigations.
Citizen Posse volunteers patrol the entire Walton County area and are equipped with retired patrol vehicles. The volunteers assist in funeral processions, festivals, fairs, neighborhood patrols and other events that typically require a deputy’s presence. The Citizen Posse Unit’s greatest contribution is assisting disabled motorists. Volunteers are able to provide someone who was involved in an accident with a ride home. Citizen Posse members can also transport individuals away from locations where a domestic violence situation occurred. Citizen Posse are not sworn law enforcement officers and do not possess arrest powers.
The Internship Program was created in 2012 and the first college intern began at the Walton County Sheriff’s Office in Fall 2012. Over 200 hours of time was earned by the intern in the first semester of the program. The program is open to college students looking to fulfil credit hours toward their respective internship programs at their college/university. Students are given an opportunity to see how a law enforcement agency works, from the administrative aspects of running a business to the day to day operations of law enforcement officers. Those interested in completing an internship with the Walton County Sheriff’s Office may contact Human Resources or PIO Catherine Rodriguez, Intern Coordinator at (850) 951-4798 for more information.
To be certified for the newly formed Auxiliary Program, the member must complete 327 hours of law enforcement education and training. Upon completion, the member is a sworn law enforcement officer who is able to ride along with a sworn deputy and perform many law enforcement functions. In 2012, members of the Auxiliary Unit completed 1,190 hours of service to the Agency and the community. They served at several different events, from the Annika Sorenstam Golf Tournament Charity Concert at Grand Boulevard to the Valley View Community Day.