An even higher honor than receiving an award, is having an award created and named after you.
Beginning in 2018, the Florida Intelligence Unit (FIU) will choose, from among Florida's finest, the man or woman who will receive the Mike Joyner Law Enforcement Officer of the Year Award. The FIU presented Joyner with the original award to take home with him.
According to Leslie Rabon of FIU, this is a brand-new award, created in Joyner's honor, and it's the second such award to be created in honor of a former Jefferson County resident and law enforcement officer; in 2013, after the untimely death of FIU Intelligence Coordinator E. Wayne Dickey, also from Jefferson County, the organization created the E. Wayne Dickey Excellence in Criminal Intelligence Award.
Indeed, Jefferson County has a lot to be proud of at the FIU; the organization's current president is none other than the county's own Tully Sparkman.
Since 1961, the FIU has been helping law enforcement agencies across Florida get to know each other and build networks to coordinate and share information. What began with a membership of 25 agencies has now grown to 183 federal, state, county and municipal law enforcement agencies, networking together to combat crime in Florida.
Before the days of computers and email, it was a way for law enforcement officers to get together and network, long before the term “network” was used to describe the sharing of intelligence and reports about what law enforcement agencies were dealing with in their various jurisdictions, and what trends they were seeing in criminal activity. Larger cities would often see these trends before the smaller towns and would be able to give the smaller jurisdictions a heads-up about what might be coming their way; multiple agencies could work together, sharing information on criminals traveling throughout the state and crossing multiple jurisdictions.
In later years, the organization's mission has expanded to include training seminars several times a year, providing the latest in crime-fighting techniques and information. In the 21st century, this includes the digital arena of cybercrime, as well as intelligence gathering via the social media and internet.
That's the FIU in a nutshell. Now, let's meet Mike Joyner, the long-time law enforcement officer for whom this new FIU award has been named, a man who has been an outstanding law enforcement officer and a quiet hero credited with saving lives, as well as serving as a member, board member and president of the FIU during his nearly 40-year career, and whom, according to Rabon, still serves as an advisor to FIU.
Originally from Jefferson County, Joyner grew up in Lloyd, the middle son of John and Margaret Joyner, with two brothers, Bubba and Skeet, who are in private business. Mike alone would go into law enforcement, starting with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office from 1973-1984. From there, he was assigned to Citrus County, working for 19 years with the Marshall Service, DEA and Customs. After that, it was perhaps four or five years in Gadsden County with the Seven County Task Force, affiliated with Big Bend Narcotics, then it was back to Monticello working as Chief Deputy under Sheriff Ken Fortune.
It was during the last 28 years of his tenure as a law enforcement officer that he spent so much time working undercover, traveling to New York, Texas, all over the country working cases, wherever he was needed. Whenever a law enforcement agency needed his help, they would call whoever he was working for at the time, and he would be “loaned out.” During his tenure as a law enforcement officer, his amazing amount of undercover work led to arrests of several large drug traffickers and other criminals, including serial killer Aileen Wuornos.
He had found her in Daytona, at a biker bar called the Last Resort, and spent the better part of a week “hanging out” at the bar, talking, listening and gathering information until he had enough to make the arrest, leading her out of the bar to where law enforcement officers waited outside to take her into custody.
At another point, he even spent a week undercover at the Levy County Jail, posing as a prisoner to gather information.
These are only the highlights of a long and storied career, much of which cannot be divulged to the public, but his work has resulted in large contributions to the law enforcement community that are now being recognized in a big way.
However, he's not one to talk much about his achievements, even the ones that can be discussed publicly, because, as he emphasized, he does not like to brag, especially when he believes he was simply doing his job.
“The way I see it, God gives a talent to every one of us,” he said. “And He gave me this talent for law enforcement and I do it to the best of my ability. It's me and the Lord, and He's been with me every step of the way.”
Since retiring from law enforcement in 2011, he has returned to Levy County, to a quiet life of farming, cattle ranching and serving as a member of the Board of Commissioners for Levy County.
And, it was during one of the county commission meetings recently that Commission Chairman John Meeks read aloud the letter from FIU, publicly announcing the new award and praising the man for who it was named. Others in attendance at the meeting mentioned highlights from his investigative work as well as acts of heroism and saving lives.
Joyner already knew about the award, having been told about it at a December FIU Conference, and stated that he was deeply honored by it, especially since he felt that there were law enforcement officers out there who were better than him.
When he reflects back on his career, it is the times that he was able to help people who were in trouble that are more important to him than any criminals brought to justice. There was the time he found the injured hunter in the Wacissa woods and carried him to safety, and especially, the time he pulled the woman from the burning car on Highway 90. Being able to save a fellow human being from burning to death is something he regards as the most important thing he has done in his life, more so than bringing down drug traffickers or catching serial killers.
“If I had to put everything into place (according to importance), to me, that tops it all.” he said.
After “a long hard 28 years” of undercover work during his 38-year career, he's glad to living the quiet, peaceful life of retirement, where “the best part of the whole deal is I get to be at home.”
(With one photo that Emerald has)