Author: Patricia Smith
This past winter and spring Adam Gee was an East Carolina University Criminal Justice major living out a childhood dream, making the rounds and learning the ropes with the N.C. Marine Patrol.
Around the same time, Wes Rock, a former Air Force Security Forces officer, was going through Basic Law Enforcement Training at the College of Albemarle’s Currituck Campus, already knowing where he would be stationed with the Marine Patrol upon completion.
Both were beneficiaries of two new initiatives the N.C. Marine Patrol has established to attract new officer candidates: internships and agency sponsored basic training. They are incentives that many law enforcement agencies across the country have started using as recruiting tools in today’s labor market, said Marine Patrol Col. Carter Witten.
“Finding quality applicants has become harder,” Witten said. “You just don’t see people going into law enforcement like you did 20 to 30 years ago.”
Agency Sponsored BLET
Previously, the Marine Patrol, which is the enforcement section of the Division of Marine Fisheries, required applicants to hold a BLET certification before they were hired, but this became a hindrance to filling vacancies, Witten said.
Today’s job seekers are hesitant to spend months in training without any assurances that a job awaits them, Witten said.
“The are wanting more security in life, to know that they have a job,” he said.
So the Marine Patrol made that happen.
“Now we are hiring you, and sending you to BLET,” Witten said.
This change played a huge role in Wes Rock’s decision to apply for a Marine Patrol vacancy.
“I had already found this job when they were only hiring people who had BLET,” Rock said.
The requirement kept him from applying because he could see no way that he could go through BLET without a job.
Then he learned that Marine Patrol was working toward approval for agency sponsored BLET.
“I said, perfect! This is what I needed.”
He began work with Marine Patrol in December 2022. He received a salary (at a reduced level) while in training, and his tuition was paid by the Division of Marine Fisheries. He completed BLET, a combination of classroom and hands-on training, graduating in May. He shadowed a Marine Patrol officer for a few weeks before he was sworn in on Aug. 16.
Rock will be stationed in Corolla.
Internships Seen as Another Opportunity for Recruitment
The internship initiative came about in a little different way.
“The biggest reason was we were getting requests from colleges,” Witten said. But officers quickly saw it as another opportunity for recruitment.
Such was the case with Adam Gee, who was required to complete an internship to obtain his Criminal Justice degree at ECU. The university contacted Marine Patrol Capt. Daniel Ipock, a former student, and his officers in the central coastal area of the state created a curriculum for the purpose.
Gee spent four months with the Marine Patrol learning to operate a boat and do other daily law enforcement duties.
“This internship allowed me the experience on boats that Kid Adam would have killed for,” Gee said.
He learned how to navigate on a foggy day using only the boat’s instruments, saw schools of dolphin playing in the wake, flew with the Marine Patrol airplane pilot, and trained with the Swift Water Rescue Team during an exercise with the North Carolina Helicopter Aquatic Rescue Team (NCHART). He qualified at-range with a handgun, learned fish identification, and heard both the commercial and recreational sides on fisheries management issues.
After graduation, Gee got a job with the Marine Patrol and started Aug. 9 as an agency-sponsored BLET cadet at Carteret Community College. Upon completion, he will be stationed in Sneads Ferry.
Internships allow prospective applicants to learn if the Marine Patrol truly is the career path they want, Witten said. It also gives Marine Patrol officers a chance to see if an applicant is a good fit.
Both Gee and Rock cite similar reasons for wanting to be a Marine Patrol officer.
“I do see a future with no fish, and I don’t like that,” Gee said.
Rock said that if fishing regulations are not enforced, the fish stocks can become depleted.
“I want to protect them for generations to come,” Rock said.
So far, these initiatives seem to be working, Witten said.
“We went from getting 20 applicants for an open position to getting 100 applicants for a position,” Witten said.
Since Gee, two other students completed internships with the Marine Patrol, and, currently, there are three cadets, including Gee, in agency-sponsored BLET.