This isn’t an ordinary day job. The shifts are 12 hours. The office is open 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. And water cooler talk centers around encounters with swarms of honeybees, famous Clydesdales and Santa’s reindeer.
Whether they’re inspecting vehicles, checking paperwork or chasing lawbreakers, a day in the life of an agricultural law enforcement officer is usually more colorful than typical.
The Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement under the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services is the state’s first line of agricultural defense. Commercial vehicles transporting food, livestock, building materials, plants and furniture are just some of the vehicles subject to inspection at any of the 19 northbound and southbound agricultural inspection stations located across north Florida.
Officer Jason Ross has been working with the Office of Agricultural Law Enforcement since 2000. He started at Florida Gateway College, formerly Lake City Community College, studying library science but decided to switch to law enforcement. He said he likes the variety that the job offers.
Tasks ranging from traffic stops to food safety and livestock inspections take up a typical shift.
But it’s the people they stop and the cargo they inspect that makes the job so unique.
In the summer months, the heat can get to the drivers, which means far less clothing than some officers would prefer. Even in November, as temperatures in Florida typically cool off, a driver came through without a T-shirt.
“An 800-pound man in a speedo — that just ain’t cool,” said Officer Randall “Peanut” Roberts.
Along with typical livestock, such as pigs and horses, sharks, kangaroos and grizzly bears have also come through the station. Ross has a small collection of photos of some of these animals on his phone.
“This, I guess, is not what you would call a traditional law enforcement agency,” Ross said.