TAMPA, Fla. — “Bridging the Badge” is a program State Attorney Suzy Lopez launched to provide law enforcement officers a look into the legal system, and vice versa.  

What You Need To Know

  • State Attorney Suzy Lopez started "Bridging the Badge" for more transparency and communication

  • Attorneys and law enforcement officers shadow each other to get a better idea of their roles in the criminal justice system

State attorneys do ride-a-longs with police officers, and then police officers come to shadow them in the courtroom, so everyone has a better understanding of the legal process and learns how to work together.

“It’s transparency and communication. Those are the two most important things we have in our jobs. We’re all on the same side, we all want our community to be safe, we want our neighborhoods to be safe, and working together gets us towards that goal,” said Lopez.

Emmanuel Santiago and two of his fellow Tampa Police Department officers met with Lopez in her office before heading over to court to shadow state attorneys for the Bridging the Badge program.

Santiago and the other officers will observe felony court hearings, seeing how a felony docket runs, from the state’s side.

“It gives them an opportunity to see a courtroom, to see what happens inside of a courtroom, and it also lets them see what we go through every day in court to make decisions regarding cases,” said Lopez.

Santiago, who first started with the police department as a dispatcher four years ago, has been an officer for about six months. He hasn’t had to provide a deposition in court yet but says he feels more confident in handling cases thanks to Bridging the Badge.

“You see how important it is to be meticulous with reports, and with the evidence you’re collecting, slow things down on investigations and make sure you get all the information you need for when it does go to court,” he said.

And as he starts his next shift on duty, he says Bridging the Badge gave him a better understanding of the criminal justice system, making him a better officer.

“Criminal justice is where my passion is, I really love it, and I like being able to help people. It’s nice having variety every day and not know what you’re coming into it,” he said.

Right now, the State Attorney’s office primarily works with the Tampa Police Department, however, they do plan on expanding the program since it’s been such a success and includes other agencies.