CHARLOTTE COUNTY, Fla. -- The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission announced Tuesday it has graduated 18 new officers, including Scott Sumpter and Michael Morrison, both of whom will serve in Charlotte County.
FWC officers patrol Florida's woods and waters, state forests and state parks, and often are the first to respond to boating accidents, missing boaters and lost campers, hikers and hunters. Each year, FWC officers save around 1,000 people during search-and-rescue missions, according to a prepared statement.
'Our officers are often the first point of contact people have with the agency,' said Col. Jim Brown, director of the FWC's Division of Law Enforcement, in a prepared statement. 'This privilege carries great responsibility, and I know these new officers will uphold our values: integrity, professionalism, dedication and adaptability.'
Sumpter and Morrison are filling positions that were open due to attrition. They will bring to a total of 11 the number of FWC officers working in Charlotte County, according to Lt. Michael Frantz, field supervisor for the FWC in Charlotte and Lee counties.
Sumpter will be working inland Charlotte County, and Morrison will be working salt water. Their positions have been open about a year.
'I'm still short two (wildlife officers) in Charlotte County, and four in Lee,' Frantz said. 'It's not that (the) FWC isn't in a hurry to fill the spots. It's just that the pay is not conducive to employment. That's the way it is, and I knew it would be that way when I signed up.'
But it's worth it, Frantz added. 'You couldn't ask for a better environment,' he said.
The new officers began their training in July. Both will be living in Charlotte County. The FWC academy teaches recruits basic law-enforcement techniques and skills.
Specialized training involves firearms proficiency, wildlife identification, vessel operation, defensive tactics, ATV operation, detection for boating and driving under the influence, and a focus on state and federal wildlife, fisheries and environmental laws.
Having the two new officers in Charlotte County will allow Frantz to have two people on every shift, plus an investigator.
'We just need to be out on the water,' he said. 'We just need to be present. It helps if they see we're around. We need to be visible.'
The most typical violations on the water involve fishing, boating and boating safety, Frantz said. Inland, 'we're having some issues with people going after deer,' he said. 'It's a little early for the turkey to come into play. There's just a lot of restrictions on how you can capture them. (Turkeys) sit in the trees at night and then come down to feed. Some people will just shoot them in the tree. That's not very sporting. They don't have much of a chance.'
The FWC regional office is in Lakeland, with offices in Tampa and Fort Myers. Biologists have a field lab in Murdock, and Frantz has an office there too.