Graduation Day for New Wildlife Officers

The agency has been stepping up its efforts in trying to recruit more minorities and women to the organization.

It was a sea of brown as more than 40 Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation officers received their badges Friday after completing 28 weeks of grueling training at the Pat Thomas Law Enforcement Academy.

For one officer, this was lifelong dream come true.

Mike Albert, new officer for Florida Fish and Wildlife, says, "I've always had an interest in fishing and when I was 12 or 13 my friends and I had an interest in it and I figured what better after my criminal justice degree than to come join an agency that cares about the environment as far as hunting and fishing goes and conservation?"

The Conservation Agency had been working diligently recruiting minorities, making this the most ethnically diverse graduating class in its history.

Julie Jones, director of Florida Fish and Wildlife, says, "We've maintained our standards, but went into communities, talked more about what we did and we found a lot of people who are interested in our job, men and women and minorities. We were very lucky this year to get a very diverse class."

It is a diverse class of students who hope others will follow suit.

Eric Alford of Florida Fish and Wildlife adds, "Law enforcement is a great job and this one has a lot of exciting things to do and people don't really know about it and the people I help know about the more diverse they get."

Officials say they want to continue this trend by diversifying the work force with equal representation from the community.

The new officers will report for duty in more than 13 counties. For information on becoming a Florida Wildlife Conservation commission officer, you can call them at 850-488-6252.