Department of Natural Resources
Week eight of the Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Training Academy started with a 6-mile run – recruits had a day to make up in their agenda due to the Labor Day holiday. The run pushed the recruits outside of their comfort zone to build strength, speed and endurance.
The first half of the day was spent learning about responding to crimes in progress. This included responding to general criminal matters as well as fish and game violations.
The afternoon lesson highlighted preliminary witness interviewing – techniques that can be used when interviewing subjects in the field. Conservation officers are unique in law enforcement because they almost always act as their own investigators when working fish and game cases. A suspect or witness interview is often the first step in such an investigation and can be a crucial factor in solving the case. Some cases are straightforward, but others require in-depth investigation with numerous suspect and witness interviews.
“It is critical for conservation officers to have the knowledge on how to conduct a thorough interview to obtain the facts of a case,” said Conservation Officer Josh Wright.
The recruits finished Tuesday’s lesson by applying their interviewing skills during a training scenario involving a neighbor dispute over a deer and trespassing.
Tuesday photo: Recruits interview the complainant in a trespassing scenario.
Recruits woke at 5 a.m. Wednesday for physical training – they received instruction on rope climbing technique before completing obstacles.
After physical training, Conservation Officer Shannon Kritz instructed patrol area checks – covering a variety of topics, including laws pertaining to state-managed land, responding to unsecure buildings and vehicles, responding to suspicious and hazardous situations and conducting large- and small-scale searches.
“Searching a suspected crime scene can be challenging for conservation officers – COs are responsible for searching large, wooded areas for evidence as small as a drop of blood, to as large as an illegally taken animal. Search patterns should be methodical to ensure that no evidence is missed,” CO Kritz said.
After the lecture portion of the class, recruits were put through a scenario to apply what they had learned. Working in pairs, recruits responded to a complaint where the complainant had heard three gunshots from a wooded area. The recruits worked together to search the area for evidence of a crime – they found shotgun shells and a game bird.
Wednesday photo 1: Recruits practice rope climbing technique during physical training.
Wednesday photo 2: A recruit photographs a grouse believed to have been poached during a patrol area check scenario.
The recruits returned to the tank Thursday morning for physical training. Although recruits completed water safety week, it’s imperative that they continue to build their confidence in the water, while also improving their overall physical fitness.
After morning physical training, recruits reported to the nearby Windsor State Game Area to complete scenarios based on the suspect identification techniques they learned Wednesday. The instructions seemed simple – locate a man wearing camouflage, who had been reported to fire three shots and then walk into a nearby wooded area. The officers encountered two men wearing camouflage and had to use their suspect identification and interviewing skills to determine which hunter had committed the violation.
Later that afternoon at the Windsor State Game Area, recruits were told to be on the lookout for a vehicle in the area that was suspected of road hunting. The recruits performed a traffic stop and during their investigation located an uncased firearm in the vehicle. Recruits were evaluated on their officer safety skills, interview techniques and knowledge of criminal law and procedure.
The scenario required recruits to apply everything they have learned up to this point in the academy. Instructors provided each recruit with feedback on areas they can improve during the coming weeks.
Thursday photo 1: Recruits interview two hunters during a suspect identification scenario.
Thursday photo 2: Shotgun shells and a shotgun are found in the backseat of a vehicle during a traffic stop investigation.
Thursday photo 3: A recruit runs a file check through dispatch during a road hunting scenario.
The recruits were greeted in the classroom Friday morning by Cpl. Trey Luce and Conservation Officer Chuck McPherson. Cpl. Luce informed the class they would be taking a field trip to the GM Proving Grounds to continue patrol truck training.
Vehicles handle differently depending on the type of terrain. This training taught recruits the difference between on-road and off-road performance, helping them understand the capabilities and limitations of CO patrol trucks.
Recruits worked in two groups. One group practiced off-road driving, including operation of a patrol vehicle on dirt/gravel roads and operating up and down steep hills. The second group worked on a high-speed course, maneuvering patrol trucks at high rates of speed while changing lanes and conducting traffic stops. The recruits also learned about vehicle extraction.
Friday photo 1: Recruits practice off-road driving and learn about vehicle extraction.
Friday photo 2: Utilizing the high-speed course at the GM Proving Grounds, recruits practice high-speed traffic stops.
Friday photo 3: Recruits practiced patrol truck maneuvering on a high-speed course at the GM Proving Grounds.