Department of Natural Resources
Continuing to perfect the 5 a.m. wakeup call followed by physical fitness and room inspections, recruits spent the first three days of the week in legal training with David Greydanus, retired Michigan State Police inspector. Inspector Greydanus gave a review of court functions and legal terminology from the previous week before introducing crimes against property.
Conservation officers deal with a wide range of property crimes, including stolen property, trespassing, and breaking and entering. Recruits participated in classroom scenarios to prepare for what they may encounter once they begin field training. Four recruits acted out an ice-fishing scenario that resulted in an assault after one recruit found another person in his simulated ice shack. Two recruits responded to the scene and addressed the violations.
Monday afternoon Sgt. Wicklund instructed on policy and procedure, which recruits are expected to adhere to and will be tested on throughout the academy.
“Policies and procedures are essential to the Law Enforcement Division because they provide day-to-day operational direction for officers,” Sgt. Wicklund said.
Monday photo 1: Recruits participated in classroom scenarios to prepare for what they may encounter once they begin field training. Two recruits responded to a crime scene and addressed the violations
Monday photo 2: While holding weighted bars overhead, recruits lunge across the gym
Inspector Greydanus continued legal training with “crimes against persons,” covering vulnerable adult abuse, stalking, hazing, identity theft and computer crimes. While conservation officers do not focus on general criminal law, it is important that they have background and education in all areas of law.
Sgt. Wicklund taught recruits about a variety of programs and applications conservation officers use daily, along with more comprehensive wildlife investigation technology.
“Technology and policing go hand in hand,” Sgt. Wicklund emphasized. “Conservation officers use the latest technology and electronics to monitor activities and solve crimes. Access to this information keeps officers aware of criminal activity so they can stay safe while patrolling and make informed decisions to better serve their community.”
During week 1 recruits were provided laptops they will use when they transition out of the academy. For now, recruits gain computer experience looking up past cases, laws and regulations.
Tuesday photo: The class gains computer experience looking up past cases, laws and regulations
Crimes against persons training concluded in the morning, with recruits taking turns instructing the class on the previous day’s subjects. Recruits practiced public speaking and arrest procedures in response to crime-scene scenarios to ensure they were prepared for Thursday’s test.
Wednesday afternoon Conservation Officer Joe Myers spoke to the class about the lifelong commitment they’re making to health and wellness. Recruits learned during week 1 that physical fitness would be an everyday part of the job.
“We focus on the three aspects of health – physical, mental and emotional. Becoming a conservation officer is a lifestyle. We teach them how to establish and continue healthy lives for themselves and their families that will help their careers progress,” Myers said.
Conservation officers face an ever-changing environment – the job requires physical and mental ability. Whether hiking with gear into the woods to conduct a search and rescue operation for a missing person, performing a water rescue or arriving on scene to an active shooter event, a conservation officer must be ready to perform at any physical level while maintaining mental composure.
The State of Michigan and Department of Natural Resources have high expectations regarding the health and wellness of conservation officers. It’s important that recruits and their families understand the lifestyle commitment they are making.
Wednesday photo: Conservation officers regularly engage with the public. Recruits practice public speaking by instructing each other on class material
Physical fitness on Thursday morning included a 3-mile run – a warm up for a long morning on foot. Conservation Officer Danny Walzak and DNR dispatcher Jill Benke instructed on radio communication. The morning was spent outside engaging in active radio communication scenarios.
Conservation officers always carry radios, as they often travel into remote areas with no phone coverage. Radio frequency also is more reliable in the event of an emergency, when it’s common for phone networks to become overloaded. Additionally, radios track an officer’s location. If an officer is unable to provide coordinates or becomes unresponsive, dispatch can identify the location and send help.
Pressure was on Thursday afternoon for the first of eight legal tests. Passing requires a minimum score of 70 percent. If recruits fail, they have one retake attempt. Failing the same test twice results in immediate dismissal from the academy.
Testing didn’t conclude after the first legal exam. Conservation Officer Jason King administered an additional test – this time conservation law, which includes knowledge about fish and game, ORV, snowmobile and marine laws.
Thursday photo 1: Conservation Officer Danny Walzak engages with recruits to enhance their radio communication skills
Thursday photos 2-3: Recruits engage in active radio communication scenarios
Friday morning recruits rotated activity stations for one hour, working every major muscle group of the body. Working out every morning prepares recruits for the healthy lifestyle they are expected to maintain for a safe, successful career.
Following the morning workout, recruits spent time writing effective reports – clear and concise reports, to be exact.
“An articulate, well-written report is the most visible manifestation of a professional officer. Reports are often the only basis others have for determining the competency of both the individual and the department he or she represents,” said Sgt. Wicklund.
Conservation Officer Shannon Kritz spent Friday afternoon discussing the importance of prepping for patrol.
“CO’s can go from patrol truck to patrol boat to patrol ORV all in one day,” Kritz emphasized. “It’s important to have equipment organized and accessible for changes throughout the day.”
Recruits had the opportunity to view a conservation officer’s patrol vehicle, seeing for themselves the amount of gear they’re expected to become familiar with and keep organized. It was an intriguing experience that sparked eager questions. Conservation officers do not report daily to an office – they work on the go and rely on their patrol vehicle, along with the items within it, as a tool.
Recruits took their third and final exam of the week, followed by end-of-week tasks, which earned their weekend dismissal.
Friday photo 1: Four recruits participate in active rowing as part of their morning physical fitness
Friday photos 2-3: Recruits had the opportunity to view a conservation officer’s patrol vehicle
Friday photos 4-5: It’s important that conservation officers have their equipment organized and accessible for changes throughout the day