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    • Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) Enforcement Officers Continue to Aggravate and Endanger Cruisers

      These three comments, originally posted on Cruisers’ Forum, http://www.cruisersforum.com/, relate more of the heavy-handed tactics inflicted upon legitimate cruisers by Florida’s Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC) enforcement officers, similar to the recent problems in Boot Key Harbor in Marathon (see /?p=129366).

      Florida Law Enforcement ie; FWC

      1/15/14 – While waiting on south side of Hallandale Beach Blvd. bridge on ICW in Broward County, Fl. I observed FWC officers holding posistion on north side of bridge in the channel for a good 15-20 minutes as I waited for an opening. They proceeded south and passed me port to port south of the draw. As I was navigating to go through the draw they approached my 32′ sailboat as if to tie up to me and ignored the shiny registration sticker posted on the bow as required and asked me if I had current registration. I said yes but you can see me on the other side of this bridge! Well they got their attitude on and said we dictate how this is gonna go! I said I am a vessel of limited manueverability and need to proceed! One of the three smarted off Are you moving? I replied yes and he said well keep moving! So they followed me through the draw and once on the north side they came alongside, tying thier boat to mine and proceeded to show me who is the boss. When I had to go into the cabin to retrieve my paperwork one of officers stepped on my binoculars coming aboard my boat like he was affraid I was getting a weapon to use to defend me and my vessel from their harrasment! So while seeing my vessel out of control with these yahoos alongside I had to back down to stay in the channel. Well they didn’t like that either! When they had enough goading me (was really angry and let em know it for putting me and my vessel in jeopardy) they finally untied their boat from mine but not before my boat touched bottom! I cursed those SOB’s like any proper sailor would and backed off the bottom into the channel an “steamed” on my way north bound. I called the Broward County main office and registered a complaint and actually recieved a call back from a Lt. supervisor who took my report. Now I know there are far more worse horror stories of abuse by these misguided souls but I am ex Coast Guard and tug captain now disabled and on a oxygen breathing tank… and really? WTF? What a state Florida (or this country even) has become since was a kid in “the hammocks” on the Matanzas River Peace be with us all.
      Woodymr

      Unfortunately, this is just one more reason why, once I get the boat I’m buying out of Florida, we won’t ever be going back. Way too many horror stories about the FWC.
      Kevin84

      Hey, I had an FWC officer caution me about me Tartan 33 throwing an excessive wake. Keep in mind, my aging T-33 has an original engine, so we never turn over 2500. When I asked if he was joking, I got “the stare”. Dropped her to 2300 rpm.

      I have a deep respect for all LEOs. But some seem to have suffered greatly from the closing of so many donut shops.
      Snore

      IMPORANT update as of 1/17/14
      Frequent SSECN contributors, Captains Susan Landry and Chuck Baier, owners of Beach House Publications, publishers of “The Great Book of Anchorages,” (http://www.tgboa.com) have chimed in with a strong note sent to Mike Troelstrup, FWC Inspector General. Both Chuck and Susan’s original message and Mr. Troelstrup’s reply appear below:

      Mr. Troelstrup, I have to wonder if you or anyone at the FWC has an idea as to how negative the actions of some FWC Officers are being viewed by the public. With the advent of the internet, missteps and abuse by your Officers quickly spread through out the country at lightning speed. I would suggest you give a close look at these two reports found on Claiborne Young’s website Cruiser’s Net. These reports are now also found on several other boating websites. The reports can be viewed here, /florida-law-enforcement-continues-to-aggravate-and-endanger-boaters/ and here, /129366/.
      Cruiser’s Net is a very popular website visited by virtually millions of boaters each year. The common response to these kinds of reports are that Florida appears to be a boater unfriendly state and that many boaters will take their boats and the dollars they might have spent elsewhere. I can’t imagine that any state that so depends on tourism would want to perpetuate this kind of image. Perhaps someone could look int these practices and consider additional training for your on the water Officers. Sincerely,
      Chuck Baier

      Mr. Baier,
      I am very appreciative of your email. I was unaware of this website and now have it bookmarked. I will also pass this on to my Director of Investigations, Amy Schmidt.
      In response to Boot Key, we are aware of all the concerns and are monitoring this closely. It is my understanding that the regional office is trying to resolve these concerns which I fully support as the first step. We will follow-up on the status of this situation.
      Thank you again for the information and always feel free to contact me with questions or concerns.
      Respectfully,
      Mike
      Mike Troelstrup
      FWC Inspector General
      620 S. Meridian St
      Tallahassee, Fl
      Mike.Troelstrup@MyFWC.com
      (850)488-6068

      This addendum just received this morning, 1/18/14, from Captain Chuck Baier:

      Claiborne,
      There is a contact for reporting abuse or complaints against an FWC Officer The email contact is Mike Troelstrup, Inspector General at Mike.Troelstrup@MyFWC.com . I would urge anyone that considers an interaction from any FWC Officer less than professional, to report the incident.
      Chuck

      And, fellow nautical author, Captain Wally Moran, has sent this e-mail to the FWC Inspector General, and copies the SSECN:

      Dear Sir:
      I have just read a letter to you from Chuck Baier that was published in the Salty Southeast Cruisers Net, plus your reply to same (/florida-law-enforcement-continues-to-aggravate-and-endanger-boaters/). I have also read there, and elsewhere, of the problems in Marathon.
      I want you to realize that I, and other boating journalists, are watching this situation closely. If situations such as this are not dealt with properly and the bully tactics of your officers are not restrained, you can expect to start seeing articles both online and in print about the behaviour of your officers.
      As the son of a lifetime LEO, I regret having to even say these things to you. It should never be necessary.
      Sincerely,
      W. Moran

      And, reaction from the cruising community:

      Having made two cruises to Florida, I will probably not return. I cannot see why so many go there, when Florida seems to be doing everything it can to be hostile to cruisers.
      Norman Mason
      Norfolk, VA

      It seems that we, the cruising community, are seen as non conformists whose attitudes about freedom and autonomy are dangerous to the post 9/11 security folk. Well, too bad. We are who and what we are, and we will not put up with a police state on the water.
      Rick Cass

      I have had to meetings with the above. one at fort jefferson which was very nice, and another in pelican bay in charlotte harbour which reminded me of the gestapo
      nick chavasse. sv war depart.

      Claiborne, There is a contact for reporting abuse or complaints against an FWC Officer The email contact is Mike Troelstrup, Inspector General at Mike.Troelstrup@MyFWC.com . I would urge anyone that considers an interaction from any FWC Officer less than professional, to report the incident.
      Chuck Baier

      As an interesting contrast; on our last cruise through Florida in April, we were boarded at 04:00 (while underway) by the USCG for a random safety inspection. The inspection team was thorough, polite and efficient. They treated all aboard with respect, went through the boat and the paperwork, and handled the boarding and disembark process like the pros they were. Role models for the FFWC team.
      John Martis

      If the FWC and indeed any other Government authority concerned about the health, safety and enjoyment of it’s citizens and visitors what we would be reading in these instances, is `welcome to our wonderful waterways’ and then links to various sites which explain things to do and where help is available. That is what I believed we paid taxes for, if these agencies are doing the opposite then they should be re worked or disbanded.
      It appears to me that Government has now been given blanket authority to dictate our actions according to their wishes, in other word, Government by Government not by the people. If I am wrong I would like to see the proof.
      Dennis McMurtry

      Claiborne,
      Have read about the FWC harassment of boaters in Florida. I do not think that writing the agency head will make any difference in the behavior of the officers.
      So, I wrote the Governor. As a life-long Florida resident, maybe my words will hold some impact. There is an election coming up.
      Will let you know if I get a response that address the concern, or whether only a canned response it given.
      Glen

      Here is the content of Glen’s letter to Governor Scott:

      Governor Scott,
      I am a native Floridian who is becoming increasingly embarrassed about the way the State of Florida treats my friends who come to Florida to visit.
      We have cruised on our boat through over 20 states and Canada. We have been welcomed in every place we have visited by government agencies and people who live along the water or who choose to travel on the water. Contacts with these people have created lasting friendships and an easy acceptance into the close-knit community of boaters.
      Florida’s image has suffered in recent years over the way local law enforcement has interacted in often negative ways with cruising boaters over enforcement of anchoring ordinances. For years, these ordinances were in violation of state law. A Florida resident boater felt it necessary to violate a local ordinance, subject himself to arrest, and spend months going through the court process to have the state courts tell the local governments what the state agencies should have, and could have easily, done themselves ‘“ the local anchoring ordinances were not legal. This long process has given Florida a negative image for years.
      Now, an agency of the State of Florida is harassing people who choose to visit the state by boat. These cruising boaters often come to Florida for months, spending their money in Florida communities as they travel our coasts. They support a large marine industry, important to the economy of Florida. To harass these visitors through the improper actions of a state law enforcement agency will negatively affect Florida’s tourism and economy.
      The officers of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission have been harassing cruising boaters in many areas of the state. Those on the water want to be good citizens, following appropriate procedures and treating the waterways in responsible manner. After all, this is their home and they want to protect it and travel in ways respectful to others. They expect to encounter law enforcement offers along the water who have the responsibility of enforcing local and state laws. They don’t expect to be treated with disrespect and actually be endangered in their navigation by these agents of the state.
      The internet has improved communications greatly. Below are links to some statements by cruising boaters describing the harassment they have experienced. This is only one site of many who have been reporting about the improper actions of Florida law enforcement.
      /florida-law-enforcement-continues-to-aggravate-and-endanger-boaters/
      /129366/
      Governor Scott, you have pledged to improve the economy of the State of Florida. The actions of the FWC are having a negative effect.
      Glen Moore

      Here is the Governor’s response to Glen’s letter:
      The response from the Governor’s Office is below. Not an answer, only an acknowledgement of receipt.
      Glen Moore
      Governor Rick Scott Rick.Scott@eog.myflorida.com
      11:34 AM (50 minutes ago) to me, Sunburst
      Thank you for contacting Governor Rick Scott regarding your concerns regarding the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. The Governor appreciates your concerns and asked that I respond on his behalf.
      Governor Scott wants to know how people feel about the many critical issues we face. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) is the agency with the primary responsibility of managing fish and wildlife
      resources for their long-term well-being.
      To ensure they are aware of your concerns, I forwarded a copy of your email to the Commission for their review. If you wish to contact them directly, contact information is provided below.
      Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
      620 South Meridian Street
      Tallahassee, Florida 32399-1600
      (850) 488-4676
      www.myfwc.com/
      Thank you again for taking the time to contact Governor Scott.
      Sincerely,
      Kelly Pacchioli
      Office of Citizen Services
      Executive Office of the Governor

      Comments from Cruisers (2)

      1. Michael Holmes -  February 7, 2016 - 9:44 am

        Lack of favorable discretion is a problem. Ever since Florida made a fishing license mandatory the FWC personnel have increased. We do need enforcement for Florida waters. FWC in the Florida keys has been harsh at times and unjustified. I have lived and fished here all my life. I am retired law enforcement and know there is a code of conduct for all state certified Officers. The Florida Highway Patrol is now and always have been a professional state agency that would not tolerate the accusation against FWC. Bottom line is you don’t have to issue citations for every violation. Most FWC Officers are just and courteous. As always there are a few that have not been fired yet. No law enforcement likes complaints justified or not. Fact is if we did not have FWC there would be no desirable fish left in Florida within two years.

        Reply to Michael
      2. Lee Starling -  January 25, 2015 - 10:05 am

        predatory practices by FWCC toward boaters in Key West
        Being shadowed by a boat with no lights while underway to the dock at sunset is unnerving , but when it turns out to be FWCC , it is worse.
        Now pulled over by FWCC, they mention running lights so I mention the sunglasses they still have on. No matter that it is literally moments after sunset. Their intention is to write a citation and generate income for FWCC and at the moment I have become that revenue resource.
        Minor infractions that should warrant a verbal warning are tickets.
        Worse yet , a few weeks later I receive a certified letter from FWCC .
        Inside, a citation for a non operational anchor light , which was issued in my absence from the vessel. It was issued at 6:32 , just after sunset when the ambient light was bright enough to keep the photo cell on my Davis auto anchor light from activating. This anchor light is an industry standard and turns on and off automatically . My vessel was not anchored in State waters but Navy bay bottom and not in navigable waters.
        I have lost any respect for the newly inducted Officers, as they lack the skills necessary to gain the confidence of the Citizens and form relationships that would benefit the FWCC and boating community. Older Veteran Officers do not operate in this manner and know that it creates animosity and results in the boating community not helping FWCC in investigations of serious violations due to bad experiences and distrust.
        FWCC wonders why the boating community doesn’t trust them , and refuses to cooperate . This is one example of their perception of boaters as a income revenue resource.

        Reply to Lee
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