Michigan DNR graduates 16 new conservation officers

LANSING, MI – Sixteen recruits successfully completed the 22-week Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officer training academy. They all graduated on June 3rd, 2016.Michigan DNR graduates 16 new conservation officers

Ceremonies were held at the Michigan State Police training facility in Lansing, and involved the recruits’ families and academy training staff. Twenty-four recruits began the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards (MCOLES)-certified training Jan. 3.

The 16 new probationary conservation officers now enter 18 weeks of field training partnered with experienced conservation officers across the state.

“These new officers will fill critical vacancies for natural resources protection and general law enforcement coverage around the state,” said DNR Natural Resources Deputy Bill O’Neill, who delivered the graduation keynote address Friday. “Conservation officers serve as important ambassadors of natural resources management and provide a safe recreational experience for our state’s residents and visitors.”

DNR conservation officers serve a distinct role in Michigan’s law enforcement community. They are certified police officers with the authority to enforce all of Michigan’s laws. As conservation officers, they also have unique training in a wide variety of areas related to the protection of Michigan’s citizens and natural resources, including extensive training in firearms, precision and off-road driving, survival tactics and first aid.

“In addition to their conservation and law enforcement duties, conservation officers deliver critical services to the citizens of this state, providing search and rescue, ice rescue and other lifesaving operations,” said Gary Hagler, DNR Law Enforcement Division chief. “Enhanced public safety in our communities is a top priority to the DNR.”

The new probationary conservation officers, their home counties, and their county assignments following field training include:

  • Ryan Andrews (Lenawee), assigned to Lake
  • Zachary Bauer (Berrien), assigned to St. Joseph
  • John Byars, Jr. (Ingham), assigned to Gratiot
  • Kyle Cherry (Wexford), assigned to Iosco
  • Jeffrey Dell (Clinton), assigned to Menominee
  • Joseph Deppen (Oakland), assigned to Macomb
  • Travis Dragomer (Berrien), assigned to Genesee
  • Colton Gelinas (Kalkaska), assigned to Leelanau
  • Troy Ludwig (Jackson), assigned to Eaton
  • Joseph Myers (Ingham), assigned to Gratiot
  • Thomas Oberg (Presque Isle), assigned to Chippewa
  • Jeremy Sergey (Marquette), assigned to Menominee
  • Nathan Sink (Emmet), assigned to Gogebic
  • Eric Smither (Lenawee), assigned to Lenawee
  • Casey Varriale (Macomb), assigned to Osceola
  • Carter Woodwyk (Allegan), assigned to Hillsdale

The recruits completed 22 weeks of training at the academy, including 14 weeks of required MCOLES general law enforcement training and eight weeks of specialized conservation officer training. Instructors for the training academy were current, experienced conservation officers.

In addition to the 18 weeks of field training, the officers also will receive several weeks of specialized training in areas such as marine boat handling and waterfowl and trapping enforcement, among others.

Michigan currently has 211 conservation officers, not including the 16 new probationary conservation officers.

“Our goal is to establish and maintain appropriate conservation officer coverage for every Michigan county, and this recruit school furthered that goal,” said Hagler. “In addition to protecting the state’s natural resources and assisting in rural and urban community policing, conservation officers often serve as first responders.”

Conservation officers routinely conduct lifesaving operations such as ice rescue and search and rescue.

In 2015, conservation officers performed a number of lifesaving operations, including a November rescue of a lost hunter in Mackinac County and a lost hunter and deer tracker in Gladwin County, a November lifesaving effort of a hunter with an accidental, self-inflicted gunshot wound, an October rescue of a lost and injured Gladwin County woman, a September lifesaving operation during a Pentwater fire, an August apprehension of an escaped Iosco County prisoner, and a March ice rescue on the Detroit River, among many more.

First Lt. Steven Burton, supervisor of the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division employment and training section, said the DNR is actively recruiting for future recruit schools.

“Men and women interested in a career as a conservation officer should start the process now by taking the Michigan Civil Service exam and completing an online application for a future academy,” Burton said.

To learn more about the conservation officer training academy, read posts of the weekly academy blog found at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers and by clicking on Conservation Officer Academy.

Michigan conservation officers are fully commissioned state peace officers who provide natural resources protection, ensure recreational safety and protect citizens by providing general law enforcement duties and lifesaving operations in the communities they serve. Learn more about Michigan conservation officers at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is committed to the conservation, protection, management, use and enjoyment of the state’s natural and cultural resources for current and future generations. For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/dnr.