Saturday, February 8, 2014

Game Warden Files--Politics

What? Politics affects law enforcement? Say not so!
Well sometimes it does and sometimes it doesn't; but in one case some politicians found that it didn't help to toss their weight around.
It was opening day of the duck season, and I was asked to work with a couple agents from the US Fish and Wildlife Service in a swamp where there had been some complaints in the past. It was not in my sector, but that sector officer was off and asked me to cover for  him.
We left my marked car in the nearby community and took the agents' unmarked vehicles to the spot. Dressed in camouflage and carrying shotguns, we made our way to a spot where we could observe a good portion of the swamp. Shortly after daylight the gunfire started. We were able to quickly document several violations and started rounding up the violators.
One of them made me for a state officer and handed me his business card--he was a member of the New York State legislature--then started dropping the name of the current DEC commissioner, saying that he (the commissioner) had planned to come along on that hunting trip but had to change his plans, "Wouldn't it have been funny if [the commissioner] had come?" My reply was that it would have been very unfortunate for the commissioner! His name dropping and arrogance set the tone for the rest of the day--and really threw a wrench into our plans as the federal agents had planned to have me write all the charges under state law. Now, since these guys wanted to play the politics card, we opted to examine all of them very closely and charge all of the violations under federal law which made the fines increase from maybe $50 to $200 minimum.
One member of this elite group was cited for using lead shot for hunting waterfowl. His response--directed loudly toward me--"That's a ten thousand dollar shotgun, son. You can't shoot steel in a ten thousand dollar shotgun." I held my tongue, but wanted to tell him to go to Walmart and get a Remington 870 like the rest of us!
During our work there, one of the agents wondered off in a different direction and was approached by another hunter who warned him about the "game wardens up ahead." He produced his badge, "OH? like me?" and brought this guy back to the rest of us. seems like he got a ticket for something also; but he remained in a good mood, amused that he has warned the game warden about the game wardens.
By around noon we were done. We wrote about  a dozen people a total of about 20 citations: over limit by species, no duck stamp, unplugged shotguns, lead shot, taking out season...a good variety. We made a plan to return the next season to see if they'd gotten the message.
The swamp was part of large track of land that had been managed as something of a game farm when we had made our visit. Before the next season we did a check on the area and found that all had changed. The mowed walkways and carefully cut cover areas were already starting to be overgrown, the place had become unused. I'm sure this bunch found some other playground upon which to violate--I doubt they really learned their lessons.

No comments:

Post a Comment