Florida's Experience With Full-Time Undercover Investigators And Full Police Powers

The use of undercover investigators is not a new concept in the field of wildlife law enforcement, however, the concept of full-time undercover investigators (as used in Florida) may be an innovation to further enhance the effectiveness of our chosen profession. Full police powers by wildlife officers is also not an entirely new concept in wildlife law enforcement. It is interesting to note, however, that, at this time only twelve (12) of the fifty-one (51) states have taken the necessary legislative action to give their wildlife officers full police power status. Within the last two (2) years, the Florida Game and Fresh Water Fish Water Fish Commission has initiated a program utilizing full-time undercover investigators, and has also acquired full police powers for its wildlife officers. Today, I will attempt to relate our experiences in the two aforementioned innovative concepts of a progressive wildlife enforcement program. I never wear a uniform and my hair may not be the same color or length tomorrow. I supervise a statewide team of inspectors and investigators. Lieutenant Ashley has explained the role of the uniformed inspector in his paper. Our investigators work undercover and appear to be ordinary civilians. Our undercover investigation program is considered a full-time special statewide project. The upward chain of command for this project is from the undercover investigator, to the Inspection and Investigation Supervisor, to the Chief of Law Enforcement, to the Director. At no time is this chain of command violated, for we have found that the number, one priority for a successful undercover program is complete confidentiality as to the identity of the undercover investigators as well as all aspects of present or future investigations. I feel it is important to make the following point clear at the outset. Our investigators are used solely for the purpose of investigating fish and game violations. Many years ago, our Commission, like so many others, used plain clothes investigators to check on their own personnel. Perhaps, in those days it was a necessary action, today it is not! We have a sufficient number of highly trained professional supervisors and a chain of command that eliminates any need for inhouse personnel investigations. This practice crippled the prospect of initiating a fulltime undercover investigation program for many years. Minor rumors of suspicion by some old-timers still circulate throughout our uniformed ranks.

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