Several members of the Florida Agricultural Crimes Intelligence Unit met recently at the Smoak family ranch in Highlands County to conduct swamp buggy training. Swamp buggies are vital to agricultural officers and deputies as they conduct investigations into agricultural crimes that occur in remote locations in Florida.
Lt. Pam Steelman of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and her colleague, Scott Henderson, conducted the training. Officers from Palm Beach, St. Lucie, Glades, Hendry, Collier, Polk, Lee, Indian River and Highlands counties participated as well as officers from the Seminole Tribe Police Department and Ben Hill Griffin security.
The officers were trained in swamp buggy operation and also participated in an exercise to extricate a swamp buggy from the mud.
FACIU is a nonprofit organization comprised of law enforcement officers from 36 agencies across the state who work in the specialized field of agricultural-related crimes. Its members include sheriff’s deputies, police officers and FFWCC officers as well as investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Highlands County Sheriff’s Office Agricultural Deputy Fred Tagtmeier, past president of this organization, organized and participated in the training.
“It’s great that we had the location here in Highlands County to use for swamp buggy training. These vehicles are useful in our work but it’s important that we know how to operate them properly so we stay safe,” Deputy Tagtmeier said.