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Training Academy #12: Week 10

Nov. 6-9, 2023

Author: PCO Zachary Smith, Ovid, Michigan

group of officers stand outside, smiling on steps with flags

Photo caption: Conservation Officer Training Academy #12 graduated from their 10-week academy on Nov. 9, at the Michigan History Center in Lansing. The group consisted of 12 licensed law enforcement officers who previously served different communities in Michigan and made the career change to become a DNR conservation officer. 

After an exciting week in the woods during Week 9, we finally made it to our final week of Training Academy #12!

We started Monday, returning to the DNR’s Rose Lake Shooting Range in Bath. The first lesson was Intoxilyzer training – using a state-of-the-art instrument that measures blood alcohol levels through breath samples. The Intoxilyzer is a vital step when arresting intoxicated subjects. As conservation officers, we could encounter intoxicated drivers on a forest road, highway, an off-road vehicle or snowmobile trail, or even on the water. This is another example of how the DNR Law Enforcement Division is a proactive law enforcement agency by providing its officers with the tools and training to do their jobs.

After our morning training, Shannon Lott, DNR deputy director, spoke with the class. We talked about all things DNR-related, from hunting and fishing to current populations of animals in Michigan and how the DNR goes about preserving those populations. Lott is extremely knowledgeable and passionate about our natural resources. Residents of Michigan should be proud knowing we have leaders like her within the DNR. All the probationary COs of Training Academy #12 were thankful she took the time to talk with us.

Monday afternoon started the last big academy hurdle – demonstrating our survival tactics (physical defense techniques). We spent the rest of the day reviewing the techniques we’ve learned, such as handcuffing, striking , rushing assaults, grabbing assaults and protecting ourselves in ground assaults. 

Tuesday morning, we hit the ground running with more survival tactics review. In the afternoon, we took our final tests. This was a stressful time because in order to pass we had to demonstrate 100% proficiency in our physical techniques. All we could do was believe in our training and the knowledge we gained from our excellent instructors. By the end of the day, we all made it through and passed our final hurdle before graduation!

Wednesday was radio training with Sgt. Tim Rosochacki, technology sergeant for the DNR Law Enforcement Division, and Jill Behnke, DNR dispatch supervisor for the Report All Poaching hotline. We learned how to use our Motorola radios and about policy, radio etiquette and how the DNR dispatch center helps COs in the field. Knowing how our radios work is extremely important because the radios may be the only form of communication we have in rural areas. COs also often work in different areas of the state in one shift. Knowing how to change radio channels between different emergency communication centers and law enforcement jurisdictions is vital. We are lucky that the DNR has an excellent team of emergency dispatchers who are always there for COs, as well as the public, available by phone or text at 800-292-7800.

In the afternoon, we met at the Michigan History Center for graduation prep. The time was almost here and we were excited, to say the least! After graduation prep, we all met for a team bonding dinner. We have been a tightknit group throughout the academy, and it was a nice evening to reflect on all we had accomplished.

We made it – Thursday was graduation day! Training Academy #12 started at the Capitol for our class photo. We then walked with pride through downtown Lansing, carrying our class flag, to the Michigan History Center for our graduation ceremony.

Person stands at the podium on a stage speaking to people in a auditorium

Photo caption: Chief Dave Shaw, DNR Law Enforcement Division, addressed Training Academy #12 during the Nov. 9 conservation officer academy graduation, sharing words of wisdom from his 36 years serving as a conservation officer.

Family, friends and DNR staff from throughout the state packed the auditorium to celebrate the 12 probationary COs of Training Academy #12. We marched in and took our seats, and then Chief David Shaw, Deputy Director Lott, probationary CO James Rowley, Lt. Mark Papineau and Assistant Chief Brandon Kieft all gave great speeches. 

Person stands at a podium speaking to others sitting in an auditorium

Photo caption: Training Academy #12 class speaker, probationary CO James Rowley, addressed his classmates during the Nov. 9 graduation ceremony, reminding the class of the triumphs they overcame during their 10-week CO training academy. 

Kieft then announced and recognized each PCO by name and assigned county. Walking across the stage and shaking everyone’s hands was an emotional moment for me because becoming a Michigan DNR conservation officer has been a dream of mine since childhood. 

After we were individually recognized, all 12 of us, full of happiness and pride, shook hands and hugged and congratulated each other on a job well done. 

Two men sit in auditorium seats listening to a speaker

Photo caption: Training Academy #12 gave special recognition and thanks to Sgt. Kyle Bucholtz, class commander (left) and Assistant Commander Corporal Josh Reed (right) for their daily support and guidance during the 10-week academy. The class commanders are responsible for the daily schedules, training and facility logistics and ensuring the overall safety and success of each probationary CO.

All the PCOs  of Training Academy #12 would like to thank everyone who has supported us through the academy. Thank you to our instructors and support staff for making a great learning environment for all of us. We especially would like to thank Training Academy Commander Sgt. Kyle Bucholtz and Assistant Commander Cpl. Josh Reed. We will be forever grateful for your outstanding leadership throughout the academy. Every single probationary CO in Training Academy #12 is more than happy we made the choice to become Michigan DNR conservation officers who will preserve, protect and defend our state’s natural resources.

Group of men stand in auditorium, hugging each other and shaking hands

Photo caption: The 12 probationary COs of Conservation Officer Training Academy #12 shook hands and hugged when their graduation ceremony concluded, Nov. 9 at the Michigan History Center in Lansing. The probationary COs will continue their training by patrolling various counties in Michigan, while being mentored by senior COs, before they report to their permanent county assignment.

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