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THE EPITOME OF PETTY; Why are Game Wardens(and some forest cops too) such petty SOB’s?
FIRST OF ALL LET ME CLARIFY, Law Enforcement Officers have a very serious, important and daunting job to do. They risk their lives on a daily basis. I salute them with the utmost sincerity yet there are exceptions…
As a federal agent with the United States Border Patrol, for over 25 years I saw my guys get a bit petty at times but hopefully the incidents were few and far between.
Establishing a Border Patrol Station in Northern Pend Oreille County we brought 12 agents to it, all except me, from the southern border. A few months into our new beginning, one of the agents, Sean, who is as black and white as any agent I have ever met, while working one spring day observed two youths fishing at Crescent Lake. He thought to himself that fishing season wasn’t open yet.
He called the local game warden as he was curious.
The game warden told Sean to identify the two youths. Sean went over to the two young men, identified them, advising them the lake was closed for fishing. He called the game warden back giving him the two names. The game warden then sent citations for the fishing violation to the two through the mail.
Nothing wrong to this point, except one of the youth is the son of the local gas station owners and there is only one gas station within 10 miles of our station! Sean, all of a sudden, became a persona non-gratis! He was not allowed to get gas at this station. We learned a big lesson and his slight against the owners of the gas station was eventually forgotten.
We learned that to receive cooperation from the locals in this very sparsely populated county we needed to overlook some petty violations. The cooperation of the locals in our venture is extremely important and we cultivate our relationships with them on a regular basis.
A few months later this same agent and I were working within a half mile of the U.S./Canadian Border one afternoon when we heard an ATV. We investigated as Border Patrol Agents are supposed to do. Sure enough, we encountered a subject on an ATV with a nice little two-point whitetail deer harvested on the back of it. The subject had his rifle thrown over the ATV also but we watched his actions and, as readers of people, neither of us believed there was a threat to our safety at this point.
I motioned him over to our location and we interviewed him. He stated he was a Canadian. I asked him if he knew where he was and he stated, “In Canada?” Sean and I laughed at this comment as we had just stumbled on someone who illegally crossed the border!
I told the man he was in the United States and he was stunned. I asked him where he killed the deer. He responded, not surprisingly, his place of harvest was in the United States. He still thought he was in CANADA. He told us he parked his pickup at a substation just north of the border where it is legal for Canadians to hunt and we often see them up there.
He rode his ATV on several back roads, obviously one of those back roads took him into the United States.
I am the supervisor but let Sean take the lead on this case to see if his common sense was close to what it should be. Sean’s judgment was sound and we both agreed that the Canadian had made an error in judgment, crossed into the United States without knowledge of doing so and didn’t know he was in the United States when we first encountered him.
We directed the lost soul to his vehicle and let him go without further action.
Can you imagine the trouble the Canadian could have been in? We, the Border Patrol, could have arrested him for illegal entry and sent him to jail awaiting deportation. We could have seized his ATV and his weapon.
The Game Department would have cited him for poaching a deer and for “Alien in Possession of a Firearm” which is a state felony. This individual, who made an error in directional issues without malicious intent, would have been in jail for a good period of time.
LUCKILY we have a bit of officer discretion and a bit of common sense. Too bad the game wardens don’t have the same common sense.
I spoke with a young mother a while back at the gun club, her juvenile son was cited by the local game warden for having over the limit of trout. Believing the limit to be five out of the Pend Oreille, he was proud to have caught five. His partner, also a juvenile caught only two. Approached by a game warden both youths readily admitted and showed their catch to the game warden.
The game warden cited this juvenile for having over the limit for fish!
The mother fought the citation as he was a juvenile and had misread the rules, and at court, the judge, a Pend Oreille resident, also believed the limit was five but was corrected by an anal game warden. His mom is, to this day, upset because his citation will stay on his record FOREVER as a “bail forfeiture” That charge perplexes me.
These people and many of their friends now have a bad taste in their mouth when it comes to the State of Washington’s Wildlife Officers. Most will be hesitant to call the Game Department should they witness a true crime such as a moose, elk, or deer being poached for its horns. The cooperation that will be received from the sphere of influence of this family will be very limited.
What should have happened? How about the game warden saying, “Hello youths, Do you have a fishing license. Good. How many did you catch? Really? Do you know what the limit is?”
The two youths would have responded “Yeah five….”
“No it’s only two.” The game warden, as a connoisseur of people and trained to know when an interviewee is lying, would quickly determine this was a mistake and say “I’m afraid that I am going to have to give you a WARNING! Let’s see, next time, how many will you catch?”
“Only two, officer.”
“Good boys. Have fun and be safe.” The game warden’s reputation would have skyrocketed as someone who is a good officer, fair and with common sense. The youths would tell their parents of the incident and their parents too would be duly impressed.
Some officers, though, will never learn.
My crew was requested to back up Mike Mumford, the Law Enforcement Officer for the Forest Service, on Sullivan Creek. Almost every one of the agents at the Border Patrol Station can recite stories that are not overly flattering of Mike.
But we responded, as is our obligation, and upon arrival at the remote campsite where there were complaints of the occupants shooting firearms all night, we found the camp abandoned. Mumford asked us to go to another remote campsite to the south and check those campers and he would go north.
I followed his directions with my subordinates and sure enough there were people in the camp. They stated that the campsite to the north had been occupied by a bunch of unrelated campers who were partying and shot weapons during the late night hours.
The campers we interviewed consisting of three young men in their early twenties, stated they too had a weapon and had shot a Ruger GP 100 at a target the previous afternoon and asked us if that was okay. I looked at the target and, as a firearms instructor for the US Border Patrol for the previous 10 years, it appeared safe to me.
Mike Mumford soon returned to our campsite. I advised him of the information that the young men passed to me. Mumford became interested when he heard they shot at a target near the creek. He asked me where the firearm was and I said it was in the tent.
Mumford went over and picked it up…Hell this is his world so we stood by and observed.
Mumford spoke with the young man who told me about shooting the Ruger GP-100. I thought ‘Cool, he’s thorough.’
Then Mike explained to the youth that shooting the revolver in this area was dangerous. He advised he was going to write him a citation for well over $100 dollars….I disagreed with this but kept my mouth shut as it wasn’t my ‘world’.
Then after writing the citation to the youth, he told him he would have to seize the Ruger Revolver….I again disagreed, but kept my mouth shut, as it wasn’t my world.
Then Mike Mumford crossed the line. He advised the young man to pay the ticket rather than fighting it in court as the youth may receive jail time if he fought it. A TOTAL LIE! If a person receives a ticket for $175 then at court you can possibly receive a fine of the maximum of $175. NOTHING MORE than that is possible!
I was pissed! Pissed because Mike Mumford LIED to the individual and ABUSED his authority! I told the young man that he should fight it in court and he would get his gun back and that he would, at the worst, lower the fine! NOT GET DAYS IN JAIL!
The last day of Elk Season, I hunted on Slate Creek Road. I hunted a clearcut till dark without luck so I picked up my stuff and headed home. As I drove down Slate, I met a vehicle a couple miles from the intersection.
The vehicle blocked me in. I stopped and immediately knew it was the Pend Oreille County Game Warden, Severin Erickson,(yes…spelled wrong.) He walked up to my window and identified himself.
He asked if I was hunting, I said yes.
He asked to see my hunting license, I had it ready. Upon examining the license he told me I had two general licenses.
I replied that I received the second one at WalMart when I picked up my deer license. This wasn’t illegal but he said I should only keep the most recent one. I didn’t think it was a big deal as obviously I possessed the proper licenses.
Mr. Erickson(spelling, yes I know!) noticed a rifle in the passenger seat. He asked if it was loaded. I said “No.” He asked me to open the breach, I did so showing him an empty chamber.
He then saw a .410 shotgun in the backseat and asked if this gun was loaded. I replied “No”. He asked if I could show him the open breach. I complied again showing him an empty firearm.
Mike Mumford was with him(which I hadn’t seen yet), advised Severin that there was a lever action rifle on the floor of the backseat of my club cab pickup
Mr. Erickson asked me if it was loaded. I said “No….it’s my wife’s rifle and I forgot to take it into the house from an earlier hunt in the morning.”
He asked if it was loaded and again I said “No.” He asked if I could open the breach. I couldn’t reach it and tried to open my driver’s door and tried to open it so that I would have easier access to the firearm. Up to this point, Mr. Erickson did nothing incorrectly.
As I tried to open the door, the game warden pushed it closed hard against my efforts with the weight of his body. That pissed me off a bit. I told him I couldn’t reach the firearm from the front seat as it was on the floor behind my seat. He said that I should twist around and reach it.
I am not the most limber of persons and struggled to reach the firearm. Finally I did grab it, manipulated it from a twisted position and opened the lever action rifle. It too was empty. Their game was now over.
As a law enforcement officer one learns the many definitions of an arrest. The general theory is that once a person believes he is no longer free to leave, he is technically under arrest. Any force used by an officer will increase this belief. At this time I was under arrest for doing, let’s see, nothing!
I was a little peeved, well maybe a bit more than a little! I changed the focus and asked Mr. Erickson if he found the wolves I called him about(I had called about a report I received involving an incident with a pack of wolves a couple of months earlier).
Mr. Erickson smugly replied he had never received such a phone call.
I jolted his memory by saying I called him about several cubs and a couple of adults in a very specific area of Pend Oreille County.
Mr. Erickson stated that I was mistaken, again having a very confident if not smug demeanor. He told me I was mistaken and had the wrong person. Was I sure that I called Severin Erickson?
Irritation filled my psyche….yep…I was pissed. I said “Don’t you remember talking to a Border Patrol SUPERVISOR about a pack of wolves?”
He said “No. You have the wrong person.” His smugness was wearing off rapidly and I could see the wheels spinning in his head.
I have only a slight problem with anger and stupid people bring it out. This anger was taking over, so using several cuss words I said, “You don’t remember talking with a Bob Wilson from the Border Patrol about a pack of wolves?” I am leaving out the profanities mixed into this statement.
Severin Erickson thought for a moment and said, “You mean a long time ago?” Smugly replaced by sheepishly!
I replied with profanity again omitted in this rendition, “Yeah, like a couple of months ago.”
He said, ”Oh…Yeah….Oh…that was a long time ago…I speak with numerous people…Was that YOU?”
As I write this I contemplate using profanities here because the irritation is reappearing. In the conversation I am sure I used a few but I don’t think it fits in this forum!
Mike Mumford joined into the conversation now and stated that the Border Patrol had made it clear that they were not going to cooperate with him. This was a completely different aspect and being deflected into another aspect I explained that the BORDER PATROL would not question wood cutters as we have no experience in that aspect of the law and for us to hassle the local residents about that would cause lead to us receiving less cooperation.
Turning my attention back to the Washington State Game Warden I knew I was in the lead now! My anger was at about my adam’s apple.
I remembered meeting the Captain for the Washington State Department of Game over this area while I was recruiting for the Border Patrol. This Captain advised that he would love for his officers to cooperate with the Border Patrol and receive some of the ample grant money we dished out for other agencies to cooperate with us.
I knew that Mr. Erickson had never even stopped at the Border Patrol’s Office, so I sarcastically asked him about his cooperation with the Border Patrol as his captain had requested.
He was on the defensive and stated that he hadn’t had a chance to cooperate yet….hmmmmm.
I, being the butt I can truly be combined with my anger that was continuing to rise, became even more sarcastic and seethingly said “I am sure your agency has all the money it needs. Hell what good will a few hundred thousand dollars do for your agency? Your Captain was obviously an idiot huh?” My words were biting and the anger was obvious. Mr. Erickson didn’t know what to say. Mike Mumford was hoping to leave soon before he was brought back into the picture.
“I tell you what. I will call your captain as soon as I get back to work and tell him I spoke with you and you assured me the Washington State Game Department is flush with money and you guys don’t need any money from us!”
Mr. Erickson was definitely pissing his own pants about now. He assured me this wasn’t the case; that he just hadn’t had time to come by and visit our office. He apologized for not doing it sooner and would make it a point in the near future.
This didn’t matter now as I was pissed at the idiocy that I observed from him. I wonder how well that worked out for him!!!
Yes…I was irritated with this interview as I thought that the game warden, Severin Erickson, was an idiot! Maybe he isn’t but in my over 25 years of law enforcement experience, I am pretty sure I am right!