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Rick Francis is Florida Fish and Wildlife Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for 2006

Officer Rick Francis is the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s (FWC) Law Enforcement Officer of the Year for 2006. He works in the agency’s Northeast Region, primarily Volusia County.

Francis has been with the Commission for only two and one-half years, but has already developed a stellar reputation and work ethic, according to FWC law enforcement brass.

“Officer Francis has demonstrated a performance level above and beyond our expectations for an officer with his tenure, and I am proud to recognize him for his outstanding dedication to duty,” Col. Julie Jones, FWC’s director of the Division of Law Enforcement said.

In the past year, Francis has written 241 citations, including two for boating under the influence, and 1,151 warnings. His cases also include freshwater and saltwater fisheries violations, illegal alligator hunting, driving under the influence, boating accidents, sex crimes and suicide.

“This ratio of citations to warnings clearly shows that he puts a high priority on educating the public on the many laws, rules and regulations that the FWC upholds, as well as proper use of officer discretion,” Jones said.

In a case not normally associated with fish and wildlife officers, Francis successfully led a felony investigation that resulted in five suspects charged with grand theft of $100,000 for cutting unused, high-voltage utility cable that runs across the marsh for a New Smyrna Beach Utility.

Like all law enforcement officers, even when off-duty, Francis is on the alert for lawbreakers. In April 2005, while visiting a fellow FWC officer in the upper Keys, he was instrumental in recovering a stolen $200,000 Hatteras yacht and the arrests of two subjects who had false paperwork for the vessel -- within hours of it being reported stolen.

In January 2005, Rick was one of the first law enforcement officers to respond to the scene of a domestic disturbance call only to find one Lake County deputy dead and two others who had been shot. He, along with a Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent, was able to clear the house, secure the victims and perimeter, and assist in locating and apprehending the suspect.

Francis has worked numerous special details such as hurricanes Ivan, Katrina and Wilma, the Summit of Americas, the Columbus Day Regatta, and Dade County mini-lobster season.

He was nominated for the prestigious 2005 Officer of the Year for Crime Stoppers for Volusia, Flagler and St. Johns counties and was recognized by Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson at the annual Crime Stoppers awards banquet.

Rick received a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Columbia University and is currently working on a master’s degree. In the past year, he has completed radar school, line supervision, field training officer, fish identification, Intoxillizer 8000 and BUI inspector courses.

He and his wife of six years, Stephanie, have a 3-year-old son and a baby on the way.

In his short career with the FWC, Francis has earned recognition as a leader with a positive attitude. He is well respected not only by his peers and supervisors, but by leaders from other agencies.

“Officer Francis has demonstrated a selfless devotion to duty, and takes great pride in serving others. Employees like Rick set the standard and help make the FWC the premiere fish and wildlife agency in the nation,” Jones said.

Frances was selected for the honor of FWC Officer of the Year from a group of six of the agency’s finest officers – one from each of the state’s five regions and the special enforcement area in the Keys. The other officers are:

Northwest Region Officer William “Billy” Kemp
North Central Region Investigator Jay Russel
Southwest Region Officer Kevin Grover
South Region Officer Jeff Gouveia
Special Enforcement Area Investigator John Humphreys

“Each nominee demonstrated the ability to perform above expectations during the past year,” Jones said. “We congratulate each of them for their accomplishments and for being recognized by their regional staff as Regional Officer of the Year.”

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