Interview with Sgt. Linda S. Perkins January 9 1989

Material Information

Interview with Sgt. Linda S. Perkins January 9 1989
Terrell, Betty ( Interviewer )
Perkins, Linda S. ( Interviewee )
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Florida Highway Patrol Oral History Collection ( local )
Traffic police -- Florida
Police -- Florida
Peace officers -- Florida
Roads -- Florida


This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.

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Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
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This interview is part of the 'Florida Highway Patrol' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
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Interview with Sergeant Linda S. Perkins

Employed with FHP 6-16-81

Interviewed by Betty F. Terrell

Date Interviewed 1-9-89


BFT: What date did you-start with the FHP?

LP: I started in June 16, 1981, and I was in a trainee status.

I was working out of the Venice Highway Patrol Station while

I was in the trainee status and my training officer at the

time was Trooper Ted Nipper. On July 4, 1981, I attended

the Academy and we were the 62nd Recruit Class.

BFT: Okay, you said you started in a. trainee status. What do you

mean by that?

LP: At the time, I don't know ifwe were the first class to try

it out or the second class, they placed me at the Venice

station to learn the paperwork. I helped with the accident

reports and just helped process the paperwork to get a feel

of what the Highway Patrol was like.

BFT: What is your present rank?

LP: I'm a Sergeant.

BFT: How long have you been a Sergeant?

LP: I was promoted on October 1, 1988.


BFT: So you were a trooper approximately seven years?

LP: Yes I was.

BFT: When were you born?

LP: August 19, 1955.

BFT: Where were you born?

LP: I was born in Springdale, Ohio, which is just northeast of


BFT: When did you move to Florida?

LP: Well, I first moved to Florida when I was in the 7th grade.

My dad decided to come to Florida because he liked the

weather. He was doing construction work at the time and we

had been here on vacation since I was about 6 years old.

Our family liked it here and my dad had a good job

opportunity with Gulf Coast Construction. I stayed here for

probably about a year and because of my dad's health we

moved back to Ohio at the beginning of 8th grade. When I

live in Florida I attended Brookside Junior High in



BFT: What did you do for a living prior to becoming a trooper?

LP: I started off working part time at Publix at Gulf Gate in

Sarasota. When I went to school I was a senior at Riverview

High School and had most of my classes out of the way. I

only had to attend two classes in the mornings so most of

mornings were free so I went to Publix and applied for a

job. Because my schedule was so flexible, I was hired in

December 1973 and I continued working with Publix until June

of 1974. When I graduated from high school we moved back to

Ohio again.

BFT: Sergeant, where did you go to elementary school?

LP: I attended Sharonville Elementary, which is in Ohio.

BFT: Give me that name again?

LP: Sharonville Elementary.

BFT: Sharonville Elementary?

LP: Yes.

BFT: You made mention of Brookside School in Sarasota. Is that

an elementary school also?


LP: That was a middle school.

BFT: A middle school? Where did you attend high school?

LP: I went to Loveland High School which is in Ohio. I attended

there until my junior year.

BFT: And that is when you moved back to Florida again?

LP: Yes.

BFT: And then where did you attend high school in Florida?

LP: I went to Riverview High School my senior year.

BFT: That's in Sarasota?

LP: Yes.

BFT: After high school did you attend college?

LP: Yes I did.

BFT: Where?

LP: I went to the University of Cincinatti which is in Ohio.


BFT: How long did you go there and what were your subjects and so


LP: Really I attended there a year and they were just general

courses just getting my main course out of the way until I

could decide what my major would be.

BFT: Did you receive a degree?

LP: No I didn't.

BFT: What were your reasons for becoming a trooper?

LP: I had worked at Publix for almost 8 years and I had gone

from being a cashier to doing a lot of office work and then

I worked stock. I was given the drug aisle and I ordered

the drug aisle and stocked the health and beauty aids. I

did a little bit of everything throughout the store. I was

then given more responsibilities with the drug aisle and

then with office work doing deposits and overseeing the

cashiers when the head cashier was not there. I wanted to

go into management and at that time Publix did not have any

women managers and when I approached my manager and told him

that I wanted to further myself by going into the management

field, he discouraged me. The manager stated that Publix

didn't have any opportunities for women in management. My


brother had become interested in the Highway Patrol but

"before that I had seen a public service announcement on TV

for the Highway Patrol. I went to the Venice Patrol station

to pick up an application. At that time in 1979 I really

wasn't encouraged to continue my pursuit of the Highway

Patrol so I dropped it for about a year. Then when my

brother became very interested in the Patrol we got the idea

that maybe him and I could go through the-Academy together.

That was about 1980, the latter part of 1980, my brother

Jeff who is now a trooper in Lakeland and I pursued the

Highway Patrol together.

BFT: Was he employed before you?

LP: No, he had to wait I guess almost 3 years because of his

eyesight. I think his eyesight was 20/60 and at the time

the Patrol had an eyesight requirement of 20/50. When they

changed the eyesight requirement to 20/70 then he fell

within the guidelines and was hired April I think it was


BFT: So your dreams of going through Patrol school together

didn't work out?

LP: Yeah it kind of bit the dust. He was real disappointed and

I felt real bad that I got to go when he was the one that

kind of ...


BFT: encouraged you..

LP: yeah, encouraged me to pursue it further and I felt bad

about that.

BFT: Tell me about the training school, the physical training and

so forth when you were in training school.

LP: When we went through the Patrol, our class, uh, we had a

nickname we were called the female class. The class before

us the 61st recruit class had three female troopers in it

and at the time there were only three women on the Highway

Patrol. When we came on the 62nd class we had 10 women out

of 32. We had a lot of training, we ran everyday and I

think we topped out about 6, 6 and a half miles that we ran

towards the end of the Academy. Also we had to box every

day and I think it was the 7th week of the recruit class I

think they finally stopped our boxing and so between running

and exercising and boxing, we had a pretty well rounded

physical training program.

BFT: After the 7th week you say they stopped boxing. Why?

LP: Because they taught us arrest technique and handcuffing and

had more classroom work.


BFT: You said there were 10 females in your recruit class? Who

were some of those?

LP: My roommate and I thought the world of was Kathleen Ridder.

She was a dispatcher in Pinellas Park and I think we still

have on Cynthia Reese and I'm not sure if she got married or

not what her married name is and we had Jerra Waller and she

has since got married and her name is Jerra Hall and I

believe she is still on and I think she is a Trooper II in

St. Petersburg.

BFT: So there's not...out of that 10 there's not too many of you


LP: I think there are 3 of us left.

BFT: During training school did you entertain thoughts of

dropping out?

LP: Well, I think everyone that goes through the

comes across their mind sometime during the Academy

training. The first 3 weeks I thought were the hardest.

First off being away from your family and when we went

through the Academy you didn't get to go home on the

weekends. On Saturday we usually went half of a day and

usually we ended up boxing on Saturdays. We boxed almost


everyday and on Saturdays we boxed and after we finished

boxing we ended up washing the cars of the Academy staff and

whoever brought their cars to the Academy. It was a pretty

rough 3 weeks and yes I did think about it ...about


BFT: What made you continue on?

LP: I'm not a quitter. I didn't want to have to go home and

face more or less defeat of not making it as a trooper. I

wanted to be a trooper and I felt that once I got out of the

Academy I knew that I'd work for what I got and it was

something to be proud of to be a trooper.

BFT: Can you give me your reaction to the training and if in your

opinion it is properly constructed for the needs of the


LP: When I went through the Academy I was not told what the

Academy was like. When we went up to Tampa for the oral

review board and polygraph and physical training part before

we came on the Patrol some of the applicants told us that

they had seen a film about the Highway Patrol. I told them

that I had not seen the film. They said there was boxing on

the film and they said you've got to box when you go through

the Academy. I thought they were just trying to scare me


and I said no, no way so when we got to the Academy the

first day they told us that we had to run a mile. I thought

I was really doing good I had been running everyday about a

mile and mile and a half. You know I didn't expect the

first day to run 3 miles. I thought I was going to die

along with the rest of them. The boxing was the one I think

that got me. I was, you know, I didn't expect to have to

put on gloves and of course I never fought with boxing

gloves in my life. You know that really surprised me. I

feel when all recruits go through that type of -training they

wonder why we have to go through such strict physical

discipline and we just think that the Academy staff was

being sadistic in a lot of ways. But once I got out of the

Academy and came into contact with the public I felt that

the training was a benefit. To go through that type of

training I think that it puts backbone into you and teaches

you self discipline. I think a lot of the people that go

through the Academy are not used to any type of discipline

like being told when to go to bed, when to eat or any type

of physical exercise. As far as the exercise and the

physical training part, I feel that it was good. As far as

the boxing I am glad that they did away with it. I feel

that in the replacement of the boxing I am glad they gave us

more officer survival techniques and more arrest techniques

which is a big benefit when you get out on the road and try

to arrest some violators.


BFT: Did you apply for any other police occupation prior to

becoming a trooper?

LP: No I didn't.

BFT: Where does the most outstanding memory during your career on

the Patrol?

LP: One of the things I remember most when I first came on the

Highway Patrol, I was sent back through the Academy for a

refresher school. I had only been on for a little over a

year. I still guess I still was scared to death of the

other troopers and of course supervisors. I had gone

through the Refresher School and we were standing outside

one of the Academy buildings and there was 49 male troopers

and I was the only female trooper. I guess I kind of felt

out of place and Colonel Burkett walked up to us and was

talking with the troopers and I was standing beside him and

listening to what was being said. I didn't say too much

because I was still a rookie really compared to the other

troopers and Colonel Burkett turned to me and told me if I

was going to be on the Highway Patrol for any length of time

I would have to learn to speak up and I guess I will always

remember that.

BFT: You have been assigned as a recruiter in the past. Give me

your thoughts on that assignment.


LP: I liked being the recruiter and given the opportunity to be

the recruiter for Troop F. I met a lot of people during the

time I was the recruiter, I made a lot of good contacts and

I learned more about the Patrol. I learned more about

people in general. I tried to help applicants come on to

the Patrol and I took pride in getting the applicants to

become troopers. I was disappointed when some of them

dropped out of the Academy because I thought they had it in

them to become troopers. I think the recruiting program is

good. I wasn't much of a speaker at the time I went into

the recruiting program. I was told that all along and I was

surprised when they chose me to become the recruiter. When

you become the recruiter you have to go out to the high

schools and talk with the teachers of the school and have to

give programs and of course you have to be able to talk with

the applicants. I would say that from being a recruiter I

learned to talk with people a lot better.

BFT: You have also attended Girls State as a representative of

FHP. What impressed you about this assignment?

LP: I like Girls State because you meet 320 girls from all over

the State. When they first gave me the assignment I thought

man what have I gotten myself into. I couldn't believe it.

The first day of Girls State and here came 320 girls

storming off the buses and I didn't know anybody. You had I


think 30-35 counsellors along with the girls so you are

talking about 370 people you were put with for almost 2

weeks that you didn't know. It is really interesting to be

with a group of girls like that because of all of their

different ideas and backgrounds. It just gives you insight

to the younger generation. When you are there in uniform

the first few days they kind of shy away from you. I guess

they are a little bit apprehensive of you, they're shy and

then later on during the 2 week program they kind of loosen

up around you. The girls talk with you and want to know

what its like being a female on the Highway Patrol and they

ask about your experiences. Out of the 320 you usually get

I'd say maybe 10-15 are really interested in law enforcement

either as being troopers or going into different areas of

law enforcement. It is just real interesting to listen of

their future plans. After I attended Girls State the first

year I gave a program in Fort Myers. It was a career day at

Fort Myers High School and I had three girls that were at

Girls State with me. They were so happy to see me they were

just bubbling over and laughing and it was really good. I

feel that out of all those girls that I came in contact I

feel and I hope I left a good impression on them about the

Highway Patrol.

BFT: How many years did you serve as a counsellor?


LP: I have done it for 3 years.

BFT: Three years. Out of those 3 years to your knowledge has any

of those girls become a trooper?

LP: Well its hard to keep up with them because most of them were

juniors. Within the three years they would just be about 19

or 20 years old and I have lost contact with them. It is

kind of hard to track down if the girls really did follow

through with their plans that they initially told me about.

BFT: Apparently you made a good impression at Girls State because

if I recall last year 1988 where a letter came through from

one of the Girls State representatives requesting that you

go to Girls State last year to be a counsellor again. Were

you aware of that letter?

LP: Yes, they gave me a copy of the letter and Colonel Burkett

sent me a copy.

BFT: Do you feel that -any outstanding changes have taken place

within FHP during your time with the Patrol?

LP: Attitude of women on the Highway Patrol has changed greatly

I think with Colonel Burkett being the Director he has made

a lot of good changes as far as trying to get us new


equipment, getting minorities and women on the Highway

Patrol, going for promotions just like I was offered the

promotion for Sergeant, trying to get us a better radio

system, giving us an option of patrol cars now which is

unheard of in a lot of departments throughout the United

States, giving us an option on the handgun we carry now

between a .357 magnum and 9mm, sending us to schools. I

went to a IPTM Management School in October of 1988 and I

talked to the Director of IPTM and he informed me that since

Colonel Burkett has been the Director that he was very

pleased because Director Burkett is all for education and he

allows the troopers to attend many schools that IPTM puts


BFT: If there were changes that you could make other than salary

of course, what would they be?

LP: Some of the changes that I think I would like to make or

suggest would be which I don't know how possible it would be

is to try to more evenly distribute to troopers throughout

the State. I know that the Colonel has agreed to keep 250

troopers in Miami but try to distribute the troopers that

are over the 250 to areas where they are needed the most. I

think for any rank they should go before an oral review

board before they are promoted. Also, as far as besides

salary, I won't mention our pay scale. I just wish the


differential pay would be distributed a little bit

differently to areas throughout the State. I think that is

a sore subject with a lot of troopers. I think that is one

of the biggest gripes that you hear from the troopers out on

the road is they are not getting the differential pay and of

course being overworked. Some of the departments, sheriff

departments, don't assist in working accidents and that

really puts a strain on the troopers. The training at the

Academy I understand is going under a change right now. The

physical fitness part I think that maybe if the Department

decided to go with an aerobics program to try to get

troopers into shape instead of the running that they used to

do. I think that would be a benefit. Also, during their

training I would like to see more officer survival

stressed. When I went through we didn't have officer

survival and when I went to refresher school I got to go

through it and it really surprised me how someone could take

my gun away from me so quickly and just be left there to I

guess be shot. I wished they would stress that more. Also,

I think that they should teach more handcuffing procedures,

take down techniques. I know that they are devoting a lot

of hours to that but I don't think you can teach that enough

because when you get out on the road and you are really

faced with situations like that you really need all the

training you can get. I wish we could get more training

with PR24. I had to use it on one occasion and I wasn't


that comfortable with using it. I wish we could expand the

training in that area. I think the Department gives us a

lot of good training. I think they give us a lot of good

opportunities to go through the Academy for refresher

schools and to local vo-techs and I am not dissatisfied with

any of the Department's procedures or policies.

BFT: How do you feel about your career with the Patrol at this

point and time?

LP: Well, being that I just made Sergeant I have got so much to

learn and it is hard to say what is going to happen in a

year from now. At this point I have only been a Sergeant

for 3 months and I have to learn more on how to deal with

troopers, learn the paperwork, and be comfortable with my

job as a Sergeant. Eventually, I would like to become a

Lieutenant with the Highway Patrol. I don't know if it is

going to be within the next two years or whatever but I

would like to progress on the Highway Patrol and one of my

main things I would like to be able to do one day is to

represent the Highway Patrol at the FBI Academy. That is

one my goals that I would like to do.

BFT: Going back to the time when you made application for

trooper, did you have any problems?


LP: Well, you have to look back to how it was back in 1980. You

have to remember that in 1979 it was unheard of for a female

to be on the Highway Patrol or even be considered. It was

rough applying and going through the steps and coming on and

going through the Academy. Being out of the Academy I think

the first year was the hardest. I thought many times about

quitting the Patrol but I'm sure a lot of troopers do. I

had a lot of resistance from the male troopers. They really

didn't like the change that was being made on the Patrol.

It was a good ole boy image and everybody thought the

troopers should be 6'2" and 200 and some pounds. Many felt

you had to be a country boy to become a trooper so you met

some resistance then. Of course some of the trooper's wives

wouldn't have anything to do with me. They felt I was a

threat to their marriage and that I was here to take their

husband away from them or to have an affair or something. I

had some problems in that area with people out on the road,

I found that men accepted me more when I stopped them and

the females I had lots of problems the first year with

women. They just gave me a real hard time.

BFT: Have you had very many scuffles with violators during your


LP: I've had a few.


BFT: Do you want to talk about it. I mean were they kind of


LP: Well, the one I remember, uh, two of them I felt I was lucky

I wasn't hurt more seriously than I was. I had stopped a

drunk, I was dispatched to an accident on Siesta Key which

is in Sarasota, I was on Midnight Pass Road working an

accident and I was going to arrest the driver of one of the

cars for DUI. She was just a little thing about 5'2" and

she didn't give me any problems. I handcuffed her and

started leading her back to the Patrol car in the area where

the accident was and it was real dark. There was a bar

across the street I think it was a 5:00 club and I was

walking back to the Patrol car when I was jumped from behind

and then I was grabbed and a scuffle ensued. Then a deputy

arrived and helped me. I went running toward the beach area

and the deputy grabbed one side of the man and he was about

6'2" probably about 220 pounds and I grabbed the other side

and the guy just hit me up side the head and knocked me up

against a cement wall. That got me to thinking how easy it

was to get hurt. For probably 2 to 3 months after that I

received threats that I was going to be killed and we got

all kinds of calls trying to get me back out on the Siesta

Key area and I just felt that I was really lucky at that



BFT: Do you find that being a female trooper that your resistance

comes more from the male or the female?

LP: I honestly think that the women are harder on the female

troopers than the men.

BFT: Why, why do you suppose that is?

LP: Men are more respectful of women. The older guys, put wowen

on a pedestal. I really don't have that much trouble with


BFT: Are you sorry that you pursued the Patrol?

LP: No because I've got a lot of opportunities since I've been

on the Patrol that I would've never gotten. I've got to go

a Governor's inuaguration which I thought was an honor and

really enjoyed it. I got to go to the Pope detail in Miami

and got to meet the President and the Pope and meet a lot of

other troopers. I really enjoyed that and just as you said

before going to Girls State and meeting other girls and the

counsellors. The Patrol has given me a lot of opportunities

and I really appreciate the opportunities and I wouldn't

trade it for the world.

BFT: Sergeant is there any incident while you were in training

that sticks out in your mind?


LP: When we were going through the Academy as I stated before we

had boxing and all of us dreaded it male and female alike.

No one liked to get in the ring and put on their gloves and

have to hit their roommate and their fellow recruits. I

guess everyone dreaded it and so for the first time when we

went in the ring I had to box Kathleen Ridder and she was my

roommate. Before we got up to box we were next in line and

she said to me whatever you do don't hit me in the nose.

She kept saying don't hurt me so I wasn't about to hit her

in the nose or try to hurt her. I was just going to try to

get by like the rest of them. We got in the ring and it was

Jimmy Johns I don't know if he was a Sergeant or a Corporal

at the time he was a counsellor and boxing instructor. When

we got into the ring next thing I knew Kathleen punched me

in the nose and laid me out on the mat and I thought to

myself man never trust your roommate.

BFT: What did you do when you were able to get up off the mat.

Did you get her nose?

LP: No, they went ahead and called it off. They thought I took

enough punishment.

BFT: When you got out of the Academy was there an incident you

remember most?


LP: When I got out of the Academy we still had the policy that

we had to wear our hats and of course we had a strict hair

guideline. My hair was pretty short and once you put a hat

on it it looked like I didn't have much hair at all. I

remember I stopped a car on Macintosh Road in Sarasota and

when I approached the car, I saw a women driver unbuttoning

her blouse. I thought to myself that she thinks I am a

guy. I walked up to the car and I asked her for her driver

license and I thought she was going to die and she started

buttoning up her blouse real quick.

BFT: After you were promoted to Sergeant where is your

assignment? Where are you stationed?

LP: I am stationed out of Fort Myers and I am a supervisor over

the troopers of Hendry and Glades County.

BFT: How many troopers do you have under your supervision?

LP: We have seven troopers and we have an opening for an eighth


BFT: This concludes my interview with Sergeant Linda Perkins.

Sergeant I appreciate you taking the time and giving me this

interview today and I am sure that it will be beneficial to

the 50th Anniversary of the Highway Patrol and the oral