By DAVID RAINER, Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources
District Park Ranger Pete Mitchum, with the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ State Parks Division, was told to wear his Class A uniform to work recently, and he didn’t know why. He complied and found out that Alabama Conservation Enforcement Officers Association (ACEOA) President Vance Wood was on his way to meet him.
Wood, a Conservation Enforcement Lieutenant with the Department’s Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries (WFF) Division, showed up at Gulf State Park to present Mitchum with the ACEOA Enforcement Officer of the Year Award.
“That was kind of a surprise,” Mitchum said. “While we are not conservation officers, we are officers who work for the Conservation Department. The ACEOA covers the enforcement personnel in all four divisions – State Parks, Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries, Marine Resources and State Lands.
“It was an honor to receive it. There are about 200 enforcement officers in the Conservation Department, and there is probably somebody out there that deserved it more than me, but I am grateful for the award.”
Director Greg Lein said Alabama State Parks is proud to have Mitchum considered for the ACEOA award.
“We think he’s a great recipient of the award,” Lein said. “I think the thing we’re most pleased with is the fact that he was nominated by his own people, which says a lot about the kind of leader he is. They respect him and respect his leadership to a degree that they wanted to nominate him. We’re proud to have him as a part of our team.”
Mitchum’s law enforcement career began in 1994 with a sheriff’s department in South Carolina, his wife’s home state. He worked patrol, K-9 and narcotics before being hired by the U.S. State Department in 2006 as a police advisor to advise and mentor the Afghanistan National Police.
“The whole concept was to teach an Islamic police force democratic policing,” said Mitchum, who said he’d always wanted to be in law enforcement since Mobile Police Officer Dan Buck gave him a short ride in a squad car when he was 7 years old. “It sounds challenging, and it was. I think we did a lot of good over there. I made a lot of longtime friends.”
After eight months at home, a friend called and asked him about being a bomb-detection dog handler back in Afghanistan. Mitchum only had experience with dual-purpose police dogs, not bomb dogs. After some convincing, he headed back overseas.
“Got my dog, and we were searching cars and buildings,” he said. “I had a really awesome dog (a Belgian Malinois named Brutus). He was a sharp, sharp dog. He received several recognitions while we were over there. It was all the dog. I was just holding the leash.
“The camp (near Kabul) got hit in 2015, and he developed a little PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). Loud noises made him shut down. They retired him, and the general at that time was kind enough to fly him back to the states to be with me. That was pretty awesome.”