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OFFICER EXCHANGE, A TRIP OF A LIFETIME
By: Conservation Officer Mike Campese,
Ontario Ministry of Natural
Resources and Forestry, CANADA
As I sat at the NAWEOA conference in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario Canada I had always wondered what it would be like to do an officer exchange in the United States. Then it happened, my name was called! After getting over the initial surprise, the next question I heard was, where are you going to go? After pondering many states, and after speaking with Officers Jason Blaylock and Rob Heflin, I settled on Mississippi. After coordinating with Captain Calvin Fulton of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks (MDWFP), my trip was arranged.
On December 9th, 2017 I loaded up the car equipped with maple syrup and many items provided by the Ontario Conservation Officers Association (OCOA) to hand out. I began my journey on a nice day in Ontario 1°C (34°F) and after the 17 hour drive I arrived at Holmes County State Park where it was 6 °C (43°F). There I met Conservation Officers (CO) Brent Madden and CO Derrick Scott (both training officers), who were out on a run doing physical training with a class of new recruits, following the runners on an ATV. After a quick tour of the Mississippi Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks Conservation Officer Training Academy, I settled into my cabin and was invited to the training officer’s area. There I met SGM Ron McMillan, Lt. Megan Fedrick and Lt. Marcus Christon, where I learned about the extensive structured training received for the Mississippi Game Wardens. Much different than the 4 weeks of training I received!
After a night at the training academy, I met CO Rob Heflin who was nice enough to let me ride along with him for the next two days. We headed to Officer Heflin’s patrol area in the Mississippi Delta and right away there was some action, but not the natural resources kind! While sitting at the rail crossing near Tchula, a car decided to pass a bunch of vehicles and cross the rail crossing that had lights flashing and the signal arm down. Officer Heflin put his blue lights and siren on warning the motorist not to cross, but the driver failed to take the warning. It was here I saw my first citation issued.