For Brandon Robinson, it’s all about the great outdoors – in terms of personal enjoyment and professional growth. Enjoying the view or taking his dog for a walk rank equally high in his book. But then his career path came calling which also involved a strong interest in being outside in the natural world, including mountain views and trekking through a forest. He began his Forest Service career by completing the Pathways Program – formally known as the Student Temporary Employment Program/Student Career Experience Program – for law enforcement. The rest, as he said, is history.
How did you become interested in working for the Forest Service?
In 2005, I was attending Albany State University in Albany, Ga., and looking for a job or internship. I had already applied for a U.S. Marshals internship when I heard about internships with the U.S. Forest Service Law Enforcement Division. I had never heard of the U.S. Forest Service, so I said, “Sure, why not?”
The program changed my life for the better. The program coordinators sparked my interest because they explained the Forest Service so well and were so personable. I applied and was accepted into the program. About a week before I was to leave for my first duty assignment with the Forest Service, I got another job acceptance letter from the U.S. Marshals. I thought about it for a while but decided to pursue a Forest Service career. It’s been a good match for me.
My first summer on the Westside Ranger District in Pocatello, Idaho, was a lot of fun learning about archaeology, fire, recreation and trails, and of course law enforcement. My first official assignment after completing the program requirements my second summer was on the Salt Lake Ranger District on the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest in Salt Lake City where I’m currently assigned. I’m aiming to become a patrol captain or special agent and who knows, maybe someday becoming the director of Law Enforcement and Investigations.
David Ferrell, the agency’s chief law enforcement officer, promoted the student career program and bringing more diversity into the agency along with diversity in the law enforcement recruitment program. Really, without him pushing the program forward, I don’t know if I’d be here today.
Did you know at a young age that you wanted to work in law enforcement?
Oh, yes! I wanted to be in the law enforcement career field from as far back as I can remember. Growing up, my best friend and I always played cops and robbers. It’s the funniest thing. We’d tackle each other off of our bicycles and start chasing one another. I had never heard of the Forest Service as far as law enforcement. Growing up, you initially think of the bigger agencies, like the FBI or the DEA. Well, here’s where I am, and I’m glad I made the decision.
What is one thing that most people might not know about you?
Well, I actually registered for a forensic science major because I watched a lot of sci-fi cop movies growing up. As a teenager, I started thinking it looked kind of cool walking around in a suit and tie, going to crime scenes, picking up a strand of hair or something, and being able to solve the crime. I even went to Albany State because it was the only college in Georgia that offered a bachelor’s degree in forensic science.
To a young guy from the big city of Atlanta, that looked cool. Well, I soon found out in college classes that my perception was not the reality. What I was seeing on TV was mostly day dreaming compared to the reality of being a forensic scientist. The reality of forensic science seemed pretty boring to me as a young man. I needed to be out doing something, and that’s why I felt law enforcement was so intriguing. It’s not the same thing over and over. There’s always a new case or situation to help solve. So I switched my major to criminal justice and it’s been good ever since.
If you could use one word to describe you, what would it be and why?
I’d probably say an achiever. All of my life I’ve set goals for myself and for the most part, I’ve accomplished them.
At an early age, I took a job working at the Six Flags amusement park in Atlanta and said to myself, “Man, I want to be a supervisor, not someone who just works here.” At 17, I had worked my way to becoming a supervisor at the park. I did the same thing when I worked at a shoe store. I wanted to move up in management and was able to accomplish that as well. I’ve tried to set goals that are actually within sight and reason, and then strive to achieve those goals, a little at a time.
It’s kind of the reason in college I joined the fraternity that I’m in. I pledged the Delta Xi Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity. The fraternity is all about achievement, so it kind of just goes hand- in-hand with what I like to do throughout life.
Tell me about any memorable projects you’ve accomplished and what you attribute your success to?
Actually, I think I’ve done some good things in Forest Service law enforcement. Out West, you encounter some interesting experiences regarding how people feel about the federal government, and it can be a little rugged at times. With law enforcement activities as part of the agency mission, we decided to establish closer working relationships with a number of groups by getting out into the community, being pro-active and working hard to establish strong partnerships. This has really paid big benefits.
A couple of years ago, I was the first person in the state of Utah to get deputized from one of the county sheriffs, and I’m actually now deputized in two counties. It’s kind of sparked a movement with some of the northern county sheriffs to deputize Forest Service law enforcement officers and publicize their good relationships with the Forest Service.
I’m also proud of our law enforcement office working hand-in-hand with other agencies to address the marijuana eradication effort. We are trying to keep public lands safe from marijuana cultivation. One day, some fellow officers and I were discussing how we are the area experts in this situation. We felt it was our obligation to help educate our state and local counterparts about illegal marijuana cultivation concerns because many dangers also exist outside the forest. We thought we could educate other officers and the public about what to look for related to how marijuana is transported out of the forest. By working together and sharing tips, we knew we could have more successful investigations to stop this activity.
A few other officers, agents and I came up with an eight-hour training course held in conjunction with the Drug Enforcement Administration that we present to state and local law officers. We provide information about the different cartels, how they operate, and things you may see as a patrol officer or investigator. This has been a huge success. Over the past two years, I’m sure we have educated more than 200 officers in Utah alone.
Are there any programs to help the general public be more aware of their surroundings in the forest?
Every year, Forest Service law enforcement officers from our Intermountain Region join the Drug Enforcement Administration and participate in hunter exposition shows. We’re focused on informing our back country hunters about potential dangers. Through our exhibits, we share pictures of situations they could encounter in the forest and provide phone numbers for assistance. We want our visitors to have as much knowledge as possible and to be very aware of their surroundings to protect them from dangerous situations.
Did you have a favorite movie, movie star or person growing up that you liked?
My favorite movie star is Denzel Washington and his role in “Crimson Tide.” He was an executive officer on a submarine and kind of fell into law enforcement.
Is your father or any other family member in law enforcement?
No, actually my dad’s a retired Army sergeant major, so I guess it can kind of fit with law and order. He always ran a tight ship. I’m the trailblazer in our family for this profession.
When you’re not working, do you have any special hobbies?
With Utah having such beautiful mountains and scenery, I like to be outdoors. I’m originally from Atlanta, Ga., so moving to Utah, well, it was a little different for me. Before I moved here, I played tennis but haven’t participated as much here because of the cold climate.
Overall, I’m a huge sports person. Currently I’m into more fitness and caring for my dog. I love working out and staying in shape. Being in law enforcement, you’re always busy so whenever I get the chance, I also enjoy just being home.
The Faces of the Forest is a project of the U.S. Forest Service Office of Communication to showcase the people, places and professions within our agency, which is responsible for 193 million acres of forests and grasslands in 44 states and territories. If you know someone you would like to have profiled here, send an email with the person's name, work location and a bit about to Faces of the Forest.