Department of Natural Resources
The members of Conservation Officer Training Academy Recruit School #9 wasted no time preparing their rooms and uniforms for inspection Sunday evening. Recruits are learning to efficiently use every second to meet demands of the academy – balancing legal and survival tactic studies, assigned work detail, physical fitness and more.
Lined in formation outside of the gym and “tank” locker room, recruits were dressed in their physical fitness uniform at 6 a.m., waiting to receive instruction. The command “fall into the tank,” echoed the hall, sending recruits into a sprint toward their respective locker rooms to change into swimsuits. Mornings in the tank prepare recruits for the challenges ahead in weeks four and five. After a series of laps, recruits were split into groups to work together passing bricks while treading water – bricks are never allowed to touch the water and must be immediately retrieved if dropped.
After breakfast and inspection, recruits rejoined retired Michigan State Police Inspector David Greydanus to continue preparing for the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES) licensing exam. As fully commissioned law enforcement personnel, conservation officers must pass the exam at the end of the academy. During week three, Inspector Greydanus taught Michigan criminal law and procedure, focusing on weapons and contraband. He brought several inoperable firearms from the MSP weapons forfeiture unit so recruits could become familiar with weapons they may encounter.
Monday photo 1: Recruits were split into groups to pass bricks while treading water. This exercise develops teamwork and builds resiliency in the water.
Monday photo 2: Inspector Greydanus brought several inoperable firearms from the MSP weapons forfeiture unit so recruits could become familiar with weapons they may encounter. Blue plastic training guns are used in all other training scenarios.
The recruits filed outside Tuesday morning to find a maroon pickup truck driven by an actor. They used this scenario – the driver was transporting a concealed pistol without a valid concealed pistol license – to practice applying their knowledge of criminal law and procedure. Upon further investigation, the driver also was found to be in possession of illegal drugs.
Every afternoon during week three, recruits had survival tactic training in the gym. Tuesday afternoon recruits learned how to properly handcuff and search subjects, which also allowed them to apply some of what they had learned from their morning classroom session – weapons and contraband. Recruits learned how to properly apply handcuffs, using a method that promotes the safety of the officer and the subject being apprehended. Conservation officers often work alone, in remote locations and in varying weather conditions – they must be able to arrest subjects regardless of circumstances, while maintaining responsibility for the subject’s well-being. Once a subject is in custody, officers conduct a thorough search to locate weapons and/or other contraband.
Tuesday photo 1: Recruits learned how to properly apply handcuffs, utilizing a method that promotes officer safety while ensuring the safety of the subject being apprehended.
Tuesday photo 2: During a felony arrest exercise, recruits learn the proper commands for subject control.
The recruits were back in the classroom Wednesday with Dr. Michael Comer, staff psychologist for the DNR Law Enforcement Division. Dr. Comer instructed the recruits in how to approach people who are acting abnormally or who may have mental disorders. While COs primarily focus patrol efforts on fish and game and marine and ORV activity, they need to be prepared to handle any kind of law enforcement situation, including varying types of individuals and behaviors.
“It is critical that conservation officers have the knowledge to recognize when they are dealing with someone who has a mental disorder, and how to get that person proper care and treatment,” said Dr. Comer.
Recruits demonstrated their knowledge and skills during Thursday’s survival-tactics scenarios. They lined the door outside of the training room, unaware of what to expect on the other side. Taking turns individually entering the room, recruits encountered a subject wearing a padded helmet in a staged living room. While this scenario ended with the subject being handcuffed and arrested without incident, recruits will continue their training to prepare for situations where the subject is not as compliant.
Thursday evening recruits took their second legal exam – crimes against persons. Exam two tested the recruits’ ability to apply law to various situations they will encounter in the field. Conservation officers fill a crucial role in rural law enforcement and are often the first responders on scene at various assault situations – they need to have the knowledge to act accordingly.
Thursday photo: Recruits enter a survial tactic training room, unaware of what to expect and have to figure out how to manage the situation. In this picture, a recruit properly maintains control and applies handcuffs to a subject.
On Friday, recruits returned to the tank at 6 a.m. for physical training. As each week continues, so does the intensity of the training. In the tank, recruits are expected to be proficient at treading water with and without their hands, underwater diving and freestyle swimming – imperative skills to pass the upcoming water safety week.
“As the recruits adapt to the training, recruit school staff will find new ways to challenge them,” said Conservation Officer Matthew Neterer. “The goal of the physical training program is to ensure that recruits are in peak physical condition to perform their duties in the field and continue to live healthy lifestyles throughout their careers.”
Prior to weekend dismissal, recruits reviewed their week two exam. Conservation Officer Jason King addressed the class, encouraging them to spend their weekend refocusing and resting, and to return Sunday ready to work – because during the academy, every day is considered “training day.”
Friday photo: Recruits conduct a water drill which simulates running against strong currents.