New Wildlife Officers Come From Varied Backgrounds
The 33 new officers, including two who will train in Glades and Okeechobee county, make up the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission's most recent graduating class are a diverse bunch. But, however unique their backgrounds, they share a common goal.
When the 14th FWC law enforcement class graduated Friday at the Florida Public Safety Institute in Tallahassee in front of more than 350 guests, they pledged their effort to the state of Florida and to protecting its unique and valuable natural resources.
While 18 of the graduates are native Floridians, 13 are from other states; 16 have four-year-college degrees; 14 are married or engaged; and nine have children.
Before joining the FWC academy, they were Marines, teachers, lifeguards, pilots, scuba instructors and professional athletes. One had previous law enforcement experience.
The individuals came together six months ago, when they began extensive training that included accuracy with firearms, vessel operation, defensive tactics, all-terrain-vehicle operation, BUI/DUI identification and a comprehensive study of all Florida laws as well as federal wildlife and fisheries laws.
The class also assisted in a missing-person case in Leon County. The recruits traveled to a Georgia landfill, where they donned hazmat suits and picked through trash to help find evidence for the case.
The 33 individuals will now join a special group as they face the challenging and rewarding path ahead. As FWC officers, they will patrol Florida's lands almost 54,000 square miles of it and Florida's nearly 6,000 square miles of water. These officers will be protecting the ''Fishing Capital of the World'' in the Lake Okeechobee region, and one of the largest public hunting systems in the country. In addition to enforcing all state laws, FWC officers are authorized to enforce federal fisheries and wildlife laws.
Two of the graduates, Jesse Alford in Glades and James Gay Jr. in Okeechobee will now spend three months in each's assigned county with a field-training officer.