FWC names Rich Wilcox its Officer of the Year
Friday, March 19, 2010
Media contact: Katie Fojtik, 850-459-6585
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission
(FWC) law enforcement officers are an elite group. They hold
positions many can only dream about. In fact, only a few prospects
make the cut to protect the state's fish and wildlife
To be named the top cop among this select group is
an honor even fewer have known. Officer Richard "Rich" Wilcox, of
the agency's Northeast Region, joined this elite group when the FWC
named him Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for 2010.
Wilcox, 40, is a five-year veteran of the FWC, with
a reputation as a tenacious, skilled officer whom outlaws prefer to
avoid. One landowner in Wilcox's patrol area described him this
way: "If he is on your trail, you might as well give up, because he
won't quit until he catches you."
The same skill and tenacity that make Wilcox so
good at cracking fish and wildlife cases are why a Putnam County
woman who was missing for a week last September is alive today.
Search-and-rescue personnel had nearly given up trying to find the
21-year-old woman when Wilcox spotted a key piece of evidence,
which turned out to be her sweatshirt.
Using keen tracking and investigative techniques,
Wilcox searched the thick, inhospitable area by ATV and finally
found the woman severely dehydrated, covered with insect bites and
near death. He immediately began performing first aid, covered her
with the shirt off his back and radioed his location to the other
For that, he received the agency's prestigious
"Lifesaving Award." He was happy about the honor, but for
Wilcox it's less about him and more about the teamwork this job
takes. In fact, when he learned he had been named this year's
officer of the year, he said, "I have to get out now and shake a
lot of hands, because I've got a lot of officers to thank for this.
It is a team effort."
Wilcox began his career with the FWC in 2005, after
serving in the Marine Corps. First assigned to the agency's
Southwest Region, he now works in St. Johns County in the Northeast
Region. Wilcox built a variety of criminal cases in one year that
might take others an entire career to accomplish, including taking
deer at night, trespassing, possessing gopher tortoises, possessing
oversized redfish, hunting dove over bait, and commercial harvest
of redfish sold at local restaurants.
Lt. Ben Allen, Wilcox's supervisor, pointed out
that selecting an officer of the year would be simple if numbers
alone could measure it. That is not the case, though.
"What makes one officer rise even higher than the
other exceptional candidates are the intrinsic qualities," Allen
said. "Though these qualities are hard to define, they are evident
in the dedication Officer Wilcox displays. Each and every day he
goes to work and truly tries to make a difference."
Wilcox's passion for the job has led him to
participate in community activities as well. He has taught hunter
safety courses, led hunt club meetings and participated in events
like the St. Johns County Safety Expo, Cattleman's Cracker Day and
National Marina Day Water Safety Expo.
"Wilcox takes ownership in his area and prides
himself on being available. He even gives out thousands of business
cards with his personal cell phone number so the public in his area
can reach him at all times," Allen said.
In January 2009, even though he was on annual leave
for the birth of his fourth child, Wilcox acted quickly on a tip
about night-hunting poachers killing a spotted fawn. Because of his
availability, quick action and superb training, Wilcox brought down
a ring of illegal hunters who were harvesting deer to sell the
meat. After a three-month investigation, he arrested eight
suspects on 88 violations.
In April and May 2009, Wilcox developed a
confidential informant and eventually arrested an individual who
was shooting deer at night and trading the meat for drugs. In
addition, the FWC charged the suspect with possession of gopher
tortoises and a red-shouldered hawk.
In December 2009, Wilcox was involved in another
rescue effort. A deer hunter had fallen out of his tree stand and
became entangled by his legs, hanging upside down. Wilcox's quick
thinking and familiarity with the area helped save the man's life.
He led rescuers to the area and used another nearby tree stand to
climb the tree and rescue the man. The St. Johns County Fire Rescue
Department is now using a videotape of Wilcox's rescue as a
With all of these accomplishments and
commendations, Wilcox is surprisingly modest. His supervisors
acknowledge that he is very well-known in his region, but they also
call him humble and soft-spoken. He excels as an officer not for
the glory, but truly for the love of the job.
"Wilcox's enthusiasm and dedication to service are
clearly represented in his accomplishments in 2009 and throughout
his career," said Nick Wiley, FWC executive director. "He is the
ideal FWC Officer of the Year."
Wilcox clearly stood out to the selection
committee, but he is not alone in his excellent qualities. This
year's nominees are an impressive testament to the quality of the
FWC's Division of Law Enforcement. They include Steve Golden, Jason
Cooke, Sandra Blackburn, Arnold McMillion and Michael Naujoks.