Florida Fish and Wildlife

Article excerpt

Learn how the FWC patrols and protects Florida's waters and wildlife resources.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation (FWC) Commission's Division of Law Enforcement dates back to 1889 with the crea don of the Florida Fish Commission. Today, the FWC employs 1,947 full-time employees' headquarters in Tallahassee, another five regional offices and 73 field offices across tine state. The FWC territory covers 53,927 square miles of land and 5,983 square miles of water. This encompasses more than 34 million acres of public and private land, including 5.8 million acres of wildlife management area.

The FWC has 73 dispatchers who provide dispatch services to FWC members and federal agents throughout the state. These duty officers operate from six Regional Communication Centers where they share facilities withother state law enforcement dispatch personnel, broadcasting on the statewood Harris 800 MHZ digital radio system also sharet state agencies like the Florida Highway Patrol.

These dispatchers, unlike many, have to know the areas in which the FWC officers are working. These areas are not defined by mile markers or city streets. Instead, they are known by levees, offshore reefs, private lands, waterways and sometimes even by an oak tree. Area knowledge and a unique understanding of how the FWC officers do their job are the keys to the dispatchers' success. They are among the most diversified and elite within their field as they coordinate resources by air, land, and sea to both state and federal law enforcement officers.

Calls for Service

The six Regional Communication Centers (RCCs) handle more than 90,000 calls per year consisting of patrol activity, calls for service and officer-initiated incidents, and concerning issues such as boating inspection and license checks, boating accidents, search and rescues, hunting, fishing, marine mammals, nuisance wildlife and protected species. Also, each RCC is designed to assume the workload for other areas of the state during natural or man-made disasters or homeland security events.

The FWC patrols 2,276 miles of tidal shoreline, 1,700 named rivers and 7,700 lakes greater than 10 acres in size. Within those areas, it protects and manages around 575 species of wildlife, 200 native species of freshwater fish and 500 native species of saltwater fish.

The FWC Division of Law Enforcement represents about half of the agency's personnel with 902 employees, 720 of whom are sworn officers. The division emphasizes compliance with fishing and hunting regulations, state and federal laws that protect threatened and endangered species, laws dealing with commercial trade of wildlife and wildlife products, and boating safety.

The Academy

FWC sworn officers receive framing at the Florida Public Safety Institute's FWC Law Enforcement Training Center. After completing the 20-week Basic Recruit Curriculum academy, those hired by FWC begin an additional eight weeks of special training. This specialized training includes topics like fish and wildlife conservation laws, land navigation and GPS, federal fisheries law enforcement, species ID (marine and wildlife), vessel accident investigation, water safety survival, man-tracking, commercial fishing, vessel operation and ATV training.

At the conclusion of the agencyspecific training, officers report to their new assignment location and are placed in a 14-week Field Training Officer program. This program is specifically designed to teach the unique requirements of fish and wildlife law enforcement. When the FTO program is successfully completed, officers are given approval to carry out the daily FWC duties.

Mutual Aid

The FWC Division of Law Enforcement partners with other state law enforcement agencies in the Florida Mutual Aid Plan. Officers perform reconnaissance, search and rescue, law enforcement services and humanitarian assistance to citizens during natural disasters. …