Not enough wildlife officers to go around - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Not enough wildlife officers to go around

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JACKSON COUNTY, MS (Mississippi News Now) -

Safety is in jeopardy without more manpower at one state agency.

"We're in dire straits," admitted Colonel Steve Adcock, Chief of Law Enforcement with the Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Parks.

He says his officers are spread too thin.

"Currently I have 32 counties in the state that only have one officer. I've got an additional 8 counties that don't have an officer," said Adcock.

Many of those on staff have a long resume that could come to a close soon.

"I have some 40 officers that are eligible to retire. They will have their 25 years. That's not to say that they will retire but they can. And out of those 40, 11 of those are supervisory staff," explained Adcock.

Governor Phil Bryant recognizes hunting season is here and the officers serve an important role.

"Maintaining not only the safety of our hunting environment but maintaining the law, so that poaching is not a problem in Mississippi and our hunting is as good as it's going to be in Mississippi," said Bryant.

Yet, the oaths include protecting more than just the wildlife.

"We're basically law enforcement off the pavement. We handle almost anything that takes place in rural areas. There's a lot of places and counties that don't have any type law enforcement and we are first responders to those areas," Colonel Adcock said.

You'll find them at everything from boating patrols to missing person searches. Governor Bryant is ready to back a cadet academy for new officers.

"So we're hoping this year the legislature will consider, I would certainly support, a department of wildlife, fisheries and parks position that we need to re-train or train more officers now," said Bryant.

It takes a full year to train new officers. Most of them work alone in rural areas. Unlike other law enforcement, back-up isn't just a block away.

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