His beat is agricultural crimes
Highlands Today – July 25, 2011
SEBRING – Agricultural Deputy Fred Tagtmeier of the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office has a position that is vital to a rural community like Highlands County. He is responsible for the investigation of a wide variety of agricultural and citrus crimes including trespassing, improper use of four-wheelers, destruction of property, theft, dumping, animal cruelty, hunting and poaching violations.
Born in Hialeah, Tagtmeier grew up in Palm Springs North, just outside of Miami, and graduated from American Senior High School in 1979.
The outgoing, affable 49-year-old outdoorsman moved to Lake Placid 30 years ago. After years of coming to his parent’s vacation home on Lake Francis, Highlands County seemed the natural fit for someone who enjoys hunting, fishing, air boating and a wide variety of outdoor sports.
Tagtmeier now lives on 10 acres in rural Sebring with his wife, Gina, a graduate of Lake Placid High School, and their two children. His parents live across the street.
His father, Fred Tagtmeier Sr., a retired Miami police officer and was a field investigator for Southwest Florida Water Management District, taught him to always listen to people and treat them fairly. His father often said, “We’re problem solvers, here to help people solve problems.”
When asked if his father influenced his decision to become a deputy, Tagtmeier says with a smile, “When I graduated high school, the only thing he pushed me to do was work!”
He has worked a variety of jobs, including construction, doing deliveries for Scotty’s Hardware, and NAPA Auto Parts. He completed his Police Academy training at SFCC in 1983 and went to work as on officer for the Sebring Airport Authority. He also has worked for the Sebring Police Department and the Avon Park Police Department.
Tagtmeier began his career with the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office 19 years ago, but six years ago when he became the agricultural deputy he felt he found his niche, he says.
“I feel like I’m a liaison person between the agricultural community and the sheriff’s office. You’re out there shaking hands and getting to know people, they are more comfortable with you…they open up…once you’ve met somebody it is easier to talk to them.”
Now he spends half of his time on the road patrolling citrus groves, caladium fields, sod farms, cattle ranches and rural communities throughout Highlands County, and the other half at his office in the Liberty Star Plaza doing paperwork and networking with people that can help him solve cases.
Tagtmeier was elected in May to a one year term as president of the Florida Agricultural Crimes Intelligence Unit (FACIU). This non-profit organization is made up of professionals from the Department of Agriculture, various Florida Sheriff’s offices, game wardens, an FBI investigator and other members of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. This unit specializes in gathering and sharing information on a variety of state wide crimes related to the agricultural field.
Various agencies sharing information is key to success in his investigations, and in the computer age it is easy to reach out to people across the state to get needed information and resources, he said.
Tagtmeier has a deep respect for the agricultural community here. “The people I deal with in this industry are down to earth people….good business people,” he says.
When asked about the importance of Tagtmeier’s work, Sheriff Susan Benton said, “As you know agriculture is the leading industry in Highlands County; as such, the Sheriff’s Office must provide investigative expertise that meets the needs of our most important industry. Deputy Sheriff Tagtmeier, our member who is assigned to conduct agricultural investigations, works within the criminal investigations division and maintains relationships with our agricultural interests and has access to additional investigative support as needed. We are proud that he has risen to the level of president of the organization of fellow agriculture deputies.”