David Thomas is a professor of forensic studies and criminal justice at Florida Gulf Coast University. Before receiving his Ph.D., Thomas served as a police officer, and retired from the Gainesville Police Department after 20 years of service. As a police officer, his assignments included: patrol, detective, street crimes, SWAT, hostage negotiations, as well as community policing and training.
Areas of Expertise (9)
Psychology of School Shooters
Law Enforcement Mental Health
Policing in America
Use of Force by Police
Police Decision Making
Law Enforcement Training
Psychology of Mass Casualty Incidents
The Union Institute: Ph.D., Forensic Psychology and Criminology 2001
National Louis University: M.Ed., Education 1998
Mercy College of Detroit: B.A., Clinical Psychology 1980
- Police Counseling Services, LLC. : CEO
- Alachua Police Department : Consultant/Mental Health Service Provider
- Santa Fe Police Department : Consultant/Mental Health Service Provider
- University of Florida Police Department : Consultant/Mental Health Service Provider
Selected Media Appearances (26)
Analysis: Most Florida officers disciplined for excessive force kept their jobs
USA Today print
David Thomas discusses the difference between use of force and excessive force.
Videos often contradict what police say in reports. Here's why some officers continue to lie
David Thomas explains why officers lie in police statements.
Dr. David Thomas Joins Arlene Bynon
CanadaTalks SiriusXM 167 radio
"Dr. David Thomas (Retired police officer, current forensics professor at Florida Gulf Coast University & author of The State of American Policing) joined the Arlene Bynon Show to discuss ongoing protests across the globe."
Former Police Officer-Turned Justice Studies Professor Weighs in on Nationwide Protests
David Thomas weighs in the protests happening nationwide.
Video shows protester colliding with a Collier County deputy
David Thomas discusses use of force.
Derek Chauvin: Despite murder charge, FBI inquiry could be more serious for ex-officers in George Floyd killing, experts say
The Independent print
David Thomas discusses the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
FGCU Professor and retired police officer shares reaction to the death of George Floyd.
Fox 4 tv
David Thomas share his reaction to the death of George Floyd.
A closer look at police use of force
MPR News radio
David Thomas discusses police use of force in relation to the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Store owner says controversial t-shirt is not racist
Fox 4 tv
David Thomas discusses why the meaning behind a controversial t-shirt could be misconstrued.
What makes a Florida Man?
David Thomas discusses theories behind the making of a "Florida Man."
Sergeant accused of sex misconduct keeps certification
Fox 4 tv
David Thomas discusses why a sergeant was able to keep his law enforcement certification after being accused of having sex while on duty.
Former FMPD employee sues Fort Myers for discrimination
David Thomas discusses discrimination within a police department.
Cracking the Case: Why sex assault victims don't come forward
Fox 4 tv
David Thomas discusses the shame associated with sexual assault and the historic police response to victims.
Cracking the Case: Police suicides outnumber line of duty deaths
Fox 4 tv
David Thomas points to the pressure, heartbreaking cases and personal issues that could weigh on an officer.
Some calling for independent probe of fatal Texas drug raid
Associated Press online
David Thomas discusses the use of a third-party investigator to review the Houston Police Department’s narcotics division.
$1 million bail set for Fort Myers man allegedly threatening to kill minorities
Fox 4 tv
David Thomas: There's a thin line between exercising freedom of speech and putting people in danger.
Florida's Good Samaritan Law expands to include reporting of under-age drinking
David Thomas offers his thoughts on the change in a law that could save lives.
Florida voters could get the chance to ban assault style weapons in 2020
David Thomas doubts Florida will ban assault-style weapons.
Cracking the Case: Viral videos highlighting possible police misconduct
Fox 4 tv
David Thomas: Video "holds the agency accountable to the public."
Florida deputy on leave after video shows him striking handcuffed teen
The Huffington Post online
David Thomas reviews an officer's action during an arrest.
Fort Myers police captain under investigation placed on paid administrative leave
The News-Press print
David Thomas looks at ethical questions related to police captain's involvement in an undercover sting.
Serving warrants is inherently dangerous, experts say
David Thomas highlights the risks faced by law enforcement when serving warrants.
Tracing Lois Riess' past, trail of death and the collision course with her alleged victims
The News-Press print
David Thomas is interviewed about the case of Lois Reiss.
What can we learn about deescalation from Toronto officer?
David Thomas discusses the actions of Toronto Police Constable Ken Lam in arresting Alek Minassian, the Toronto van attacker.
New laser mapping tech used at scene where 8-year-old girl was killed by hit-and-run driver
Fox 4 tv
David Thomas discusses the use of FARO to investigate the hit-and-run death of an 8-year-old girl.
Fight, flight or freeze? Officers rarely fail to confront threat, experts say
David Thomas talks about law enforcements willingness to face potential threats.
Selected Event Appearances (3)
Fight, Flight or Freeze - The Psychological impact of a Critical Incidents
National Conference on Active School Shooters Orlando, FL., October 4, 2018
21st Century Policing: Professionalism in Policing Series Alachua, FL., April 3 & 5, 2018
Confidentiality Agreements & Department Safety Plan
Consult, University of Florida Counseling Center Gainesville, FL., March 8, 2018
Research Focus (1)
Police and the community
All of Dr. Thomas’s research efforts are focused on the examination of: police and the minority community, police training, police practices, police decision making, the use of force, and officers' mental health and well being. Dr. Thomas is a retired police officer who believes that in order for the profession to begin to heal the wounds of the past, it must understand, accept, and implement change to leave the past behind.
Selected Articles (3)
American policing is under siege today in a way like never before. The questions that many have is has it always been this way or is this an anomaly? This research project examines the history of law enforcement from 1967 through today including the Black Lives Matter Movement and how law enforcement has responded to citizens challenging police actions. The examination of history details how little as changed over time. It provides the reader with issues associated with the use of force and police perception of the minorities during encounters. The data was collected from 90 officers in the state of Florida. Finally, this research project offers insight into police socialization, culture and suggestions to affect positive change.
In the world of law enforcement, the most noted form of trauma is an officer involved shooting but from a psychological standpoint that may not necessarily be the case. What officers fail to recognize is the impact of normal or routine calls for service. The profession recognizes that exposure to major traumatic events requires some form of psychological triage. Most law enforcement agencies provide Employee Assistance Programs; Critical Incident Stress Management or Debriefing after such incidents; and/or have a contract with a mental health provider. However, most often agencies limit the nature and type of mental health services they provide for officers. From an organizational standpoint and amongst officers, mental health is not seen as problem. There is an old adage in policing: “To see the shrink is a sign of weakness. Warriors can handle anything”. This statement still holds true today. Braziel, Straub, Watson, & Hoops (2016) completed an analysis of the San Bernardino, CA terrorist attack and the law enforcement response. In that analysis, the authors noted mental health counseling varied depending on the agency, a stigma is associated with those who seek therapy, and a co-worker openly teased those who sought therapy. Finally, a supervisor stated: “It’s almost seen as a ‘badge of discourage’ if you speak out and have problems. We need to show some degree of empathy for these people” (Braziel, Straub, Watson, & Hoops, 2016, p. 48).
Thomas, D. J.
The African American male has been demonized in American Society. From an African American perspective, the proof is in the pudding African Americans are only thirteen (13%) of the U.S. population yet they make up fifty percent (50%) of the adult prison population. Richard Pryor the famous black comedian once stated the following regarding the Criminal Justice System and African Americans: “Is it criminal justice or just us in the criminal justice system” . The perfect storm can best be described as a series of individual events which by themselves are rarely harmful however when they come together they create a cataclysmic event. The African American community has faced many challenges in the U.S. however the series of events that it has not been able to overcome since the 1960s are: failed economic policies, the heroin epidemic of the 1960s and 1970s, the Crack Cocaine epidemic of the 1980s and 1990s, incarceration of adult black males (fathers), and the destruction of the two parent household in the African American community. The end result of these policies created a void for African American juvenile male with many believing their only option is drugs and violence as a means of survival. This article explores theory, science, and provides some insight as to the complexity associated with African American male juveniles and violence in the African American Community.