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DIVISION OF FLORIDA HIGHWAY PATROL


50TH ANNIVERSARY ORAL HISTORY PROJECT









Interview with: Lieutenant Larry Lee Austin



Employed with FHP: January 8, 1978 Present



Interviewed by: Trooper Benjamin F. Hollinger, Jr.



Date Interviewed: March 21, 1989


Typed by: Carolyn Mosley







Today I have with me Lt. Larry L. Austin of the Florida

Highway Patrol and I am Benjamin Franklin Hollinger of the

Florida Highway Patrol. The subject is the Florida Highway

Patrol Oral History Project. The place of this interview is at

the Florida Highway Patrol Station at 1011 NW 111th Avenue,

Miami, Florida. This is the new Florida Highway Patrol station

in Dade County and was recently dedicated to the late Alphonso

Lofton. The time is 2:20 p.m.



Lt. Austin as you know the Florida Highway Patrol will

observe their 50th Anniversary in 1989. This interview will

establish your knowledge and your imput into the past history of

the Florida Highway Patrol. Please give me your name for our

record.



LLA: Larry Lee Austin



BFH: What date did you start with the Florida Highway

Patrol?



LLA: January 8, 1978



BFH: Can you give me the date when you were born?



LLA: Yes I was born on December 2, 1951.


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BFH:



LLA:



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LLA:



BFH:


Were you born in the State of Florida?



Yes I was born in Wildwood, Florida.



What did you do prior to becoming a state trooper?



Right after high school I went to 'college for four

years at FAMU. After I graduated from college I went

to the Virgin Islands at St. Croix and I spent three

years there as a teacher and high school band director.



Do you recall the elementary school that you attended?



Yes it's no longer there, it was J.R. Lee Elementary

school in Wildwood.



Did you attend high school also in Wildwood?



Yes, it was Wildwood High.



Did you go to college?



Florida A & M Universary in Tallahassee.



Did you receive a degree from Florida A & M Universary

in Tallahassee?






LLA: Yes, I did.


BFH:



LLA:



BFH:



LLA:



BFH:



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BFH:







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BFH:





LLA:


-3-


What degree did you earn?



I have a B.S. degree.



In education or criminal justice?



No, a B.S. degree in music education.



Did you serve in the military?



No I didn't.



Prior to after you finished college, are your family

Floridians, were they born and raised in Florida or are

they migrated to Florida?



Yes, both were born and raised right here in Florida.



Can you give me some of the reasons for becoming a

Florida Highway Patrolman?



Well I'd always wanted to be a trooper, but when I

finished high school I had a college scholarship to

attend A & M University, since I had a background in







LLA: music, so I pursued that and I finished at A & M and

got my degree and taught school for a while after

that. Then I went to the Virgin Islands and I came

back home and there was no job to be had anywhere in

the state or in central Florida teaching school, so I

applied with FHP and also the City of Tampa Police

Department and was accepted by both of them at the same

time and I decided to go with the Highway Patrol

because of the image.



BFH: Did you have any prior contact with the Florida Highway

Patrol before becoming a patrolman?



LLA: No I didn't.



BFH: Did you have any knowledge, did you talk to anyone

about the Highway Patrol prior to joining the Highway

Patrol or making your decision to join the Highway

Patrol?



LLA: No I didn't.



BFH: Approximately what was your starting salary at the time

when you entered the Patrol?



LLA: I believe it was $989.00 per month, I'm not sure, it

was either $989.00 or $1089.00 per month.






BFH: Prior to coming on the Patrol did you know how many

blacks at that time was on the Florida Highway Patrol

or minorities?



LLA: There was approximately thirteen I believe, twelve or

thirteen.



BFH: How were you recruited. How did your recruitment go,

going through the selection process of the Florida

Highway Patrol. Did you have any difficulties?



LLA: No I didn't. I applied when I was in the Virgin

Islands so I didn't make contact with anyone until I

got back to the states. The selection process as far

as the background check and all that went perfect, I

didn't have any problems passing the background and

preliminary employment process.



BFH: Do you recall who the background investigator was at

the time that conducted the background on your file?



LLA: Yes, it was Lt. C. Turlington out of Brooksville. I

think he is retired now.



BFH: Did the Lieutenant come by your home and meet your

family?


-5-






LLA: Yes he did.


BFH: Were you married at the time when you applied to become

a state trooper?



LLA: No I wasn't.



BFH: How did your family feel about you becoming a state

trooper since there was just a few blacks in the

Florida Highway Patrol?



LLA: Well, naturally they were concerned because being it

police work, knew that it was dangerous or it is

dangerous, but both of them gave me their blessings and

they said that if that's what I wanted to do then by

all means go for it.



BFH: OK, lets go to your first day at the Florida Highway

Patrol Academy. How was your first day there?



LLA: A real experience. I had never been exposed to

anything like that before, as were a lot of the guys.

Having never served in the Military, and getting

adjusted and getting adapted and then adjusting to the

paramilitary style that they have in the academy was a

real experience. It had some getting use to, but I

didn't have any problems.


-6-






BFH: OK, with the Highway Patrol having only a few blacks on

the Florida Highway Patrol, did you feel any pressure

from the white recruits that were in your class?



LLA: No, I think we had a good working relationship with the

other classmates up there, the other recruits in the

academy. I don't recall any personal experiences.



BFH: Do you recall how many blacks you had in that class or

hispanics or females that were in your class?



LLA: Three blacks including myself and one female, infact I

believe she was the first female, Patricia Phillips.



BFH: How did the academy staff at that time greet you or

greet the recruits since you all had some minorities

there?



LLA: Just like anybody else, with fear.



BFH: Do you feel that during the FHP training, you were

treated fairly, and that the academy staff acted in a

professional manner?



LLA: I think so. As I said earlier, I can't relate to any

personal experiences where I felt any undo pressure.


-7-






BFH: After the completion of the academy training, how many

individuals in your recruit class graduated, and give

me the number that started with you.



LLA: I think we started with 55, and I believe 44 graduated.



BFH: Of that 44, how many were black?



LLA: About two. Two of us, me and Charlie Harris.



BFH: And the female?



LLA: Pat Phillips, yes she went to Miami after completing

the training courses.



BFH: Do you recall any of the courses that you took in the

training academy that would stick in your mind that you

thought was difficult?



LLA: Well, not difficult. They were different, having not

been exposed to courses like that before. Like the

firearms training, the driving courses, the first aid

courses all of them were very worthwhile and

beneficial.



BFH: How did you feel about the boxing class?


-8- -






I didn't like it, but I'm glad we went through it.


BFH: During that time were they still having swimming at the

academy?



LLA: No, we were never involved in any type of water sports

or water training.



BFH: And the physical training consisted of?



LLA: We had to run, I think that they required that you be

able to run at least one mile prior to reporting to the

academy. We ran every morning, and on mornings when it

was too cold to go outside we had calisthenics in the

gym downstairs. That consisted of the regular

calisthenics and some windsprints and also some unarmed

defense, in addition to boxing.



BFH: Before you went to the academy, did you have any prior

riding assignments as a trooper, or were you hired and

went straight to the academy?



LLA: -Yes, after being accepted I went straight to the

academy. I didn't ride prior to coming on.



BFH: Do you recall how long your academy class was?


-9-


LLA:







LLA: 13 weeks.



BFH: And can you recall what equipment was issued to you

upon your graduation?



LLA: The service revolver and all the leather. Some

uniforms, handcuffs, the hat, summer hat and also the

winter hat, and the traffic law books. I'm sure there

were some other things that I just can't recall at this

time.



BFH: Do you recall any of the members of the academy staff

during your training?



LLA: Yes, there was Captain Saunders who was in charge of

the academy at that time, also there was Lt. Betts,

Sgt. B.R. Lee, Sgt. Walt Sherman and Sgt. Sandy Vincent

at the time.



BFH: Before you indicated that they started off with 55 and

you all graduated with 44. They had nine members to

drop out?



LLA: Yes, something like that.



BFH: Upon completion of the academy, what duty station were

you assigned to?


-10-






LLA: Tampa was my first duty station, Hillsborough County.



BFH: Upon reporting to the Tampa FHP Station, did they have

any blacks at that time at that station?



LLA: No, I was the first black trooper assigned to

Hillsborough County.



BFH: Do you recall who your training officer was at that

time?

LLA: It was Trooper Jim Lee at the time, and he is now a

captain with the Patrol in Orlando on the Turnpike.



BFH: How would you grade your training officer?



LLA: I don't think I could ask for a better training

officer. He was very knowledgeable and also he had a

lot of patience. He was an individual, a training

officer who like myself, believed in training and in

teaching. He believed in doing the job right, if it

wasn't done right you'd do it until you did get it

right.



BFH: Did you have any, how did the troop receive you, since

you were the first black to be in the Tampa troop?








LLA: I didn't have any problems in my initiation there in

Hillsborough County. It was an experience as far as

the public, being the first black trooper. Remembering

my training officer and myself would pull up to a

traffic light and folks not being use to seeing a black

trooper would pull up to a traffic light or a stop sign

and folks would do double-takes to actually see if what

they saw was really what they had seen, a black trooper

sitting in a patrol car there in Hillsborough County.



BFH: How long was your training period before you were on

your own?



LLA: Thirty days, one month.



BFH: After your training period and you were on your own,

what type of automobile and equipment did you receive?



LLA: My first vehicle was a 1977 Plymouth Grand Fury I

believe. It was the old, it didn't have electronic

sirens at that time. And we had the old bubble blue

light. There was no P.A. system we still had the band

radios.



BFH: Was your car equipped with airconditioning?


-11-







LLA: Yes it was.


BFH: Did you have any incidents in the Tampa area after you

got out on your own with any violators who did not

accept your being a Florida Highway Patrolman or any

incidents that may have occurred during your first

years on the Patrol in the Tampa area that you felt was

uncall for?



LLA: I can only think of one incident where I attempted to

arrest a white female, and she decided that she was not

going to jail. I forget what the charge was, why I

stopped her, but anyway there was an altercation

between me and her because of the fact that I believe

that she was not going to be arrested by a black

trooper. Of course, she was arrested by me and taken

downtown to the jail there in Tampa. That's the only

situation that comes to mind right away of any type of

resistance to me being a black trooper there in

Hillsborough County, and I might add that this person

was from New York I believe.



BFH: Who was the troop commander at that time of your troop?



LLA: Captain Spud Clemens



BFH: And who was your district lieutenant?



LLA: Lt. Lohman in Tampa.


-12-







PBFH: And during that time there was no sergerants, your

immediate supervisor was your corporal.



LLA: Right



BFH: How long afterwards, while you were in the Tampa area

was it before you had anymore black troopers to come to

the troop?



LLA: I think it was two years. Tim Morgan was the next

black trooper there in Tampa, and he's no longer with

us.



BFH: While in Tampa, I understand you became a Homicide

Investigator?



LLA: Yes, in 1982 I was promoted to Homicide Investigator.



BFH: How long were you a Homicide Investigator?



LLA: From 1982 until November 1984.



BFH: During the time that you were there in Tampa was there

any one person that you can single out that really made

a great impression on you at this point in your career

to bring you to where you are now, that was in your

first troop?


-13-








LLA: My training officer first of all. I had a lot of

respect for him. He really impressed me because he was

a sharp individual. He had a lot on the ball. Of

course there were several other individuals, but my

training officer readily comes to mind first and

foremost.



BFH: What do you see as the greatest difference in the

Florida Highway Patrol from when you started and the

Florida Highway Patrol today?



LLA: It has been progressive. The equipment has changed,

we've come a long way in equipment and we've come a

long way in training. We've also come quite a ways in

recruiting efforts, as far as getting more qualified

people on the Patrol.



BFH: Let's go back a little bit. During that time when you

first came onto the Highway Patrol who was the

director of the Florida Highway patrol?



LLA: Colonel Eldridge Beach was the director at the time.



BFH: Who is the present director now?



LLA: Director Bobby R. Burkett.


-14-






BFH: Since serving under both administrations, both

directors, which one do you feel has done more to

bring the Florida Highway Patrol into the twenty-first

century, as far as minority hiring, recruitment and

bring the Highway Patrol into today society?



LLA: Of course Colonel Beach did what he could back then /

during the time and I guess during that particular

time it was probably considered a lot as far as

increasing minority representation in the Patrol,

however, since that time things have changed, times

have changed and Director Burkett has done a great job

in my opinion as far as hiring and recruiting

minorities, getting them in at the trooper level and

also encouraging them to take the promotional exam to

get promoted to a supervisory rank.



BFH: Do you feel that Director Burkett has brought the

Highway Patrol into the modern day society as far as

equipment and the role of today law enforcement

officer in society?



LLA: That's true, a perfect example of that is the Mustang

patrol vehicles. Being able to have a choice between a

standard shift 5-speed Mustang, or a full size sedan

like the Crown Victoria. Also the Colt Python


-15-







LLA: Revolvers, that's an improvement. Right now we're

looking at the 9 milimeters, where you have the choice

to decide between a 9 milimeter simi-auto loader or

carrying the Colt Python Revolver. There aren't many

agencies that will give you that option of being able

to choose what vehicle you want to drive or the type of

weapon you want to carry. We have come a long ways in

that respect.



BFH: Let's go back a little bit. While you were employed in

the Virgin Islands. What was your job and the

circumstances that brought you to that location down

there in the Virgin Islands?



LLA: I was a high school band director there at Central High

School in St. Croix there in the Virgin Islands when I

applied and I was recruited prior to leaving

Tallahassee up at FAMU. There were some individuals

from the Virgin Islands Department of Education

recruiting there one day and I had an interview with

one of those officials and applied for the job and was

subsequently hired for a teacher, back in 1974.



BFH: Back to the Highway Patrol. You are considered to be

one of the few minority supervisors that the Florida

Highway Patrol has. You have also attained the rank of

lieutenant and you are the first minority to hold the

rank above a sergeant. Is that true?


-16-






LLA: Yes, that is correct.


BFH: During .your promotion to a sergeant did you

encounter any problem being a minority supervisor at

the rank of sergeant when you first got promoted?



LLA: No I didn't. I didn't have any problems at all serving

as a corporal at the time and I had a good rapport with

the troopers and also with the fellow supervisors.

I've never had any discipline cases brought to my

attention because of any type of off-color remarks or

whatever. In fact, a lot of troopers when given the

opportunity 'to select what sergeant or what corporal

they wanted to work for, I had a lot of them to inquire

and ask me if there was any way I could get them on my

squad and these are both black and white troopers.

Which makes me feel good. It gives you a good feeling

inside. As far as any specific problems, no I haven't

had any, I haven't experienced any.



BFH: Go back a little bit, we were talking about corporals

and sergeants. When you first took the promotion exam

you were promoted to the rank of corporal. And then

later on the Highway Patrol changed the rank structure

which pushed you up to the rank of sergeant. After

taking the promotion exam again and passing and scoring

high, you were then promoted to the rank of lieutenant.


-16-








LLA: True, that's correct.


BFH: I understand you have served on several Oral Interview

Boards for new troopers in Tallahassee. Do you feel

that their process is good and if not what improvements

would be recommended?



LLA: As I've served on eight or nine Oral Interview Boards

in Tallahassee and Lakeland and various places in the

state. It's greatly improved compared to the old

system that we had. The selection process back then

has changed dramatically. I believe it's more

structured now in that all the interviewers are asked

the same question and by doing it that way you attempt

to eliminate any subjectivity you attempt to keep it

fair. You don't give the one interviewer an advantage

of maybe getting some information that the other

applicant didn't. I think it's more structured in that

respect and it's good. That's one of the best things

that I can remember about the old oral interview

process. You could stay in there ten minutes or it

could "last up to 30 or 45 minutes depending on the

people who are interviewing. Some of the questions

that they ask were not job related and they didn't have

anything to do with your role or your job as a trooper,

and right now it's more structured wherein all the

questions are job related and they relate to what

you're going to be doing out there on the road.


-17-








BFH: I think if I'm not mistaken, you and Trooper Phillips,

the female that graduated in your class were about the

only minorities that served on the Oral Interview Board

at that time, besides the late Alphonso Lofton.



LLA: That's probably correct. I never served on a board

with Pat Phillips. You're probably correct in making

that statement.



BFH: I understand during your duties over in Tampa you saved

a child's life. Could you tell me some of the

information surrounding that incident that brought this

about.

LLA: Yes, I was on patrol one afternoon there in Tampa, and

I was driving down a residential street and just

happened to be passing an apartment complex that had a

small retaining ditch in front of the complex. There

was something fluttering in the water. After taking a

closer look it was a small child. So me and an

unidentified motorist got the child out of the pond and

I gave him CPR and got some of the water out of his

system. I called the paramedics to the scene to

respond and give first aid. Just so happen this little

baby had slipped away from his parents who lived

upstairs in an apartment, come downstairs and fallen

into the little retaining ditch there. I think he was

eighteen months old at the time. As a result of me

getting to him I guess you could say I saved his life.


-18-








It makes me feel good that I was there. I just

happened to be at the right place at the right time. I

was fortunate that I was there at the right time.

Quite possibly I did save his life. Anyway the papers

and the news, Tampa Tribune did a little article on it

and I think some of the radio stations there did and

the Women of America gave me a plaque in reference to

the life saving act that I did.



BFH: Do you know if the child is still alive or grown or

have you seen that child since that incident?



LLA: I haven't had any contact with him after that

particular incident took place.



BFH: Did the parents give you any kind of recognition?



LLA: Well the mother came down and of course she was upset

at the time about what had happened but she did thank

me.



BFH: Did you get any kind of recognition from the

Department?



LLA: I don't recall if I did or not I'm not sure. I think I

was nominated for Trooper of the Year or Trooper of the

Month, I'm not sure.


-19-







BFH: I understand that on occasions you have been assigned

to the Investigation Section. Can you tell me about

some of the duties that you carried out?



LLA: I've been assigned to the Investigation

Section (UNK)



LLA: Yes it's given me a perspective of the Patrol from a

middle management view. It gives me a view of how the

Department is run and why it's run the way it does and

why they have to do the certain things that they do.

There are certain external factors involved and being

just a road trooper you don't realize this until you

are put into a position like this where you come in

contact with people who have to make decisions and as a

result of that you find out that we don't do things

just because we want to. A lot of facters influence

the way that we do our job, infact, a lot of external

factors set policy for the Division, so in that regard

it's given me a different view and it gives me more

respect and I can have more respect for the department

realizing that their are other factors involved. I

think that if the average everyday trooper out there on

the road had this type knowledge, possibly they would

have a different perspective of the Department as a

whole also.


-20-







BFH: Do you recall the date that you were promoted to the

rank of lieutenant?



LLA: Last week, the effective date was March 15, 1989.



BFH: At the present time you're the only minority holding

the rank above sergeant on the Florida Highway Patrol?



LLA: Yes that's correct.



BFH: I understand that you've participated in a program with

the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Can you tell us a little about that program and the

name of that program?



LLA: That's the Management Fellows Program. It's one of the

programs unique to this department. I think there's

only been one other agency in the state that has a

program similar to this which is HRS which is no longer

in existence at the time. This program is designed to

select individuals from each of the different divisions

of the department, put them through a one year program,

wherein they are introduced or exposed to. different

areas in the department learning about the different

functions of each of the various divisions. It

attempts to select people who have management potential

and train them to become future managers or upper level

supervisors in the Department of Highway Safety and

Motor Vehicles. It's one that I'm really glad that I


-21-






LLA: was selected to participate in. I intend to take full

advantage of it because it has increased my awareness

of the department, even on a broader perspective. You

get to see how the overall picture of the department

ties in with the different divisions and how the

different divisions tie in to complete the overall

picture and mission of the Department of Highway Safety i

and Motor Vehicles.



BFH: Can you recall the date that you came onto the Florida

Highway Patrol?



LLA: January 8, 1978.



BFH: From January 8, 1978, up to 1982, the director was

Eldridge Beach. The present director is Colonel Bobby

R. Burkett. Can you tell me the difference between the

time that you came on up to 1982 when the Highway

Patrol had the great change. Give me your view of the

Hgihway Patrol now since Director Bukett took over in

1982 until the present.



LLA: I think now the Patrol is more modern, it's more

progressive. Inorder to have progress you've got to be

able to keep up with that and I think that's one of the

philosophies of the current director. He is realizing

that you've got to have change and change is

resistance, it's traditional. Knowing that and being


-22-






LLA: able to want to move this department of this division

forward into the future, I think he has a lot of good

ideas and he's implemented a lot good ideas. Of

course, a lot of things that he wants to do, again, go

back to the restraints that we have to work under. A

lot of things that he wants to do can't be done or wont

be done because of those outside factors until we get a

lot of support. He really impresses me with the fact

that he is definitely progressive and I'm a progressive

person myself and I -like that. He is motivated, he

wants this department to be, if there's such a thing,

receive an "A" rating, and it should be. This is the

largest police agency in Florida, definitely the

largest state police agency in Florida, and we should

be the leaders and innovators in a lot of different

things that we do.



BFH: Do you have any other views about the Florida Highway

Patrol that you'd like to express at this time?



LLA: I Think that this is a good department to work for,

we've got a long way to go. There's a lot of good

things that's going to happen for the department, but

it's going to take the help of all of the troopers

involved and also the community to get behind us and

push us and support us toward accomplishing some of

those goals that we want to meet. I'm not going

anywhere, I've had job offers to go with the Secret





<


LLA: Service and also the FBI and a couple of other police

agencies but I'm here to stay, I'm not going anywhere.

This is not just a job for me it's my career.



BFH: So in other words you feel that the Patrol has been

good to you?



LLA: Yes very definitely, and it's not just because of the

money that I stay here, there are other things that you

look for that are important besides money.



BFH: After becoming lieutenant, have there been any

noticeable changes, have you been treated any

different. Do you feel that you're being treated with

the respect of the rank of lieutenant?



LLA: I haven't received any personal comments from anybody

reference my promotion. If there have been any type of

comments or anything they have not been directed toward

me personally. As far as working with the local

supervisors here in Miami, I haven't received any

personal attacks or anything like that. Of course

they're going to be jealous as any time when one of

their fellow troopers get promoted to a next level and

the impression is always given that you're leaving your

fellow troopers or your fellow sergeants behind, but

that's not the case. That's going to be there

regardless if your black or white the color doesn't

matter.








BFH: So you would say that your promotion to lieutenant in

Troop E has been on a positive note?



LLA: Yes, very definitely and I might add that it's on a

positive note as you say because I intended it to be

that way, that's the way I wanted it and that's the

way I'm going to let it be or let it happen. It all

depends on what attitude you take toward different

situations and I'm going to make it a positive, and it

is in fact a positive effort and a positive endeavor.



BFH: Lieutenant Austin on behalf of the Florida Highway

Patrol and the director and all the people involved in

the Florida Highway Patrol Oral History Program, we

want to thank you for taking the time out for this

interview and I agree with you that the Florida Highway

Patrol has come a long way I think under the direction

of Director Bobby Burkett, that the Florida Highway

Patrol has a great future to go even further to greater

heights and on that note I want to thank you.



LLA: OK Ben, I appreciate you taking the time to interview

me.


-25-




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