When Captain Tracy Campbell first joined the Maryland Natural Resources Police in 1995, newly minted officers were assigned to a boat, to which they reported for patrol or response duties. With her assignment in St. Michaels, the Baltimore native quickly felt at home on the Eastern Shore.
Those days, officers didn’t have their own state vehicles—or cell phones. “You would get a call on your home phone in the middle of the night, get in your personal car, drive down the road to the boat and then turn the boat radio on to find out the status of the call,” Campbell remembers.
“We didn’t have depth-finders on the boats then either. Someone would ask how deep the water was and you’d grab your boat hook to estimate it!”
Campbell served as a field officer for 16 years, mostly in Talbot County. Through that time, the Natural Resources Police has evolved—today, officers are assigned to an area instead of a boat. “When I started, I only had to know the Wye River and the eastern part of the bay,” says Campbell. “Now you have to know your entire county and all the geography, regulations, and communities within that area.” She enjoyed getting to know the people who lived along and worked in her part of the bay.
In 2012, Campbell was transferred to support services. Her mission was to “get the cadet program chugging again.” The Natural Resources Police cadet program accepts young men and women between the ages of 18 and 20 who are interested in joining the unit and exposes them to the many facets of a job in the force. Cadets go through the same application, testing, and hiring process as people applying to be officers.
The first cohort that Campbell oversaw resulted in 11 cadets entering the Natural Resources Police academy and graduating as officers. She is proud of the success many of the former cadets experience as officers. “It’s a neat program. They see if the job is a good fit for them and we get to see if they are a good fit for the Natural Resources Police.”
After helping to rebuild the cadet program, Campbell was promoted to lieutenant in charge of training and recruitment in 2017 and to captain in 2018. She now serves as commander of training, recruitment, safety education, and community outreach. In this position, she heads up two shops: the training section of the Natural Resources Police, including the police academy and cadet program; and the safety education section, which includes hunter education, boater education, and the reserve officers program.
Campbell supervises staff who run the day-to-day operations within each section. “My job is to make sure the machine keeps running and to provide guidance; I keep an eye on the horizon and head up big projects.”
One of Campbell’s favorite projects is the annual “Boatload of Toys” holiday toy drive, which stations Natural Resources Police staff around their communities to collect toys— literally in a boat.
“Our regional office had a gift exchange every year and it got me thinking—what if we donate the money we would spend on gift cards to people who actually need it during the holiday season?” Toys and cash donations are contributed to the Toys for Tots program, which provides toys to local kids up to 18 years of age.
To Campbell, the toy drive is a natural continuation of her duties as a Natural Resources Police officer. “This job is all about service to the community,” she says.