He’s rescued a first-time hunter lost at night in the treacherous Escambia River swamp, caught people illegally night hunting and trespassing, discovered a hidden alligator snapping turtle and even apprehended one of his area’s most wanted methamphetamine distributors. He’s also developed an officer mentoring program and performed countless outreach hours to area youth and civic organizations. And all of that was just in 2016.
For his exceptional performance, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) has named Officer Jason Hutchinson its 2017 Officer of the Year. Throughout 2017, Hutchinson will represent the FWC at various events.
“I’m truly humbled by this honor. It’s a real blessing to be able to do what I love with the FWC and my fellow officers,” said Hutchinson.
“Officer Hutchinson’s dedication to resource issues and public safety make him an ideal FWC officer,” said Col. Curtis Brown, the FWC’s Division of Law Enforcement director. “He has made a difference in his patrol area and we’re proud to have him representing the FWC.”
Originally from Santa Rosa County, where he now patrols, Hutchinson uses his local knowledge to protect the resources and people in his community. He makes a positive impact both on- and off-duty, and his actions set an example that reaches statewide.
Hutchinson began his career at the Florida Department of Corrections with the ultimate goal of eventually becoming a sworn officer for the FWC, which he achieved in 2012. Hutchinson’s varied work experience provides him with a wide-ranging experience set to draw from, and affords him the unique ability to identify with a number of officers from other agencies with different backgrounds. He has used that ability to the benefit of Floridians multiple times, including when he was instrumental in the apprehension of one of Santa Rosa County’s most notorious methamphetamine cooks. While working a night-hunting detail, he apprehended a subject in the Blackwater Wildlife Management Area who resisted arrest. Experience and instinct led him to contact the Santa Rosa County Narcotics Unit, which obtained a warrant and found seven active meth labs, meth and other paraphernalia in the suspect’s vehicle. Trafficking and manufacturing charges took the subject off the streets and placed him in prison.
Public outreach is another category in which Officer Hutchinson excels. During the past year, he has taught hunter education classes, conducted outreach events at schools and festivals, and has participated in the Blackwater Family Hunt and the Hutton Unit Mobility-impaired Hunts. During these events, Hutchinson has been an integral part of the effort to provide participants with the assistance and support they need to ensure a memorable experience in the outdoors.
Hutchinson created a program in conjunction with the local courts in which juvenile violators speak to their peers during hunter education classes. This counts toward their community service hours, has an impact on youth and keeps the focus of their community service on resource conservation.
“We’re fortunate to have Officer Hutchinson on our team,” Brown said. “The whole state of Florida is fortunate to have him. He not only provides exceptional service on a daily basis, but he sets an example for others as well.”
Hutchinson and his wife Heather, along with their son Jake and daughter Haylee, live in northern Santa Rosa County. Community members know that if they call his phone number with information or a violation to report, they have the ear of a dedicated, hardworking and engaged FWC officer who cares about them and their community.
To learn more about becoming an FWC officer, visit JoinFWC.com.