Conservation Officers| A Career in Law Enforcement| | | | History, Duties, and Expectations of an Indiana Conservation Officer| Conservation Officers, as well as the Department of Natural Resources, have a long and colourful history in the state of Indiana dating as far back as 1889. In the late 1870’s naturalists began to raise a hue and cry about the uncontrolled use and depletion of our natural resources, concerned with such issues as soil erosion and the resulting water pollution, loss of acres of forest land to raging wildfires, and the draining of natural wetlands.
In response, Indiana began to institute gaming seasons and laws to regulate acceptable conduct with regard to all natural resources. In 1889, County Road Supervisors were given authority to enforce these laws and regulations, essentially making these individuals precursors to the officers we know today. The Department of Fisheries and Game was established in 1899 and in 1901 the government created the Board of Forestry and the position of State Forester.
Actual game wardens were established in 1911, with a salary of $75 a month, and within the first ten years Indiana wardens were averaging 55 annual arrests per officer. (DNR Timeline, www. in. gov) In 1913, Colonel Richard Lieber began working to procure land for the purpose of creating state parks in honour of Indiana’s 100 year anniversary of statehood. Three years later, Turkey Run and McCormicks Creek State Park, both purchased by Col. Lieber and his parks committee, were dedicated.
Governor Goodrich signed a bill to create the Department of Conservation and appointed Col. Lieber as its first director in 1919. At that time there were five divisions in the department; Geology, Entomology, Forestry, Lands and Waters, and Fish and Game. Before Richard Lieber stepped down in 1933, he helped to found Clifty Falls, Brown County, Pokagon, Shakamak, Mounds and Spring Mill State Parks. (DNR Timeline, www. in. gov) Game Wardens became known as Conservation Officers in 1939, and two years later were given full police powers.
Indiana governor Gates created the Water Resources Division, which in 1965, along with the Department of Conservation, Soil and Water Committee and the Outdoor Recreation Council, were combined to create the Department of Natural Resources. Since 1965 the DNR has continued to acquire land to establish state parks and reservoirs, and has expanded the duties and responsibilities of Conservation Officers to include hunter and conservation education, as well as criminal investigation applicable to certain laws and regulations pertaining to activities such as boating, hunting, fishing. DNR Timeline, www. in. gov) The list of job functions for an Indiana Conservation Officer is a long and somewhat intimidating one. Their primary focus is “responding to calls for service at any hour, in any conditions, in emergency and non-emergency situations, by motor vehicle, on foot, by boat, ATV or snowmobile, in congested or non-congested areas. ”(Essential Job Functions of Indiana Conservation Officers, Capt.
David Windsor, IDNR, Law Enforcement Division) Any role in law enforcement requires hard work and dedication but, unlike most other agencies, Conservation Officers often face volatile circumstances without the benefit of assistance from other officers. Therefore they must exercise independent judgement and discretion, as well as read, understand and apply laws, rules and regulations to various situations. Many of the career obligations are the same as those of a patrol officer, with a slightly different jurisdiction.
Not only are Conservation Officers responsible for the well -being of the general population within their district, but they are also responsible for protecting the fish and wildlife in rural areas, all state parks, forestry’s, nature preserves, and state owned historical properties. They respond to natural disasters, apprehend criminals and if the situation dictates, can collect evidence and testify in court cases as well. Quite often it is Conservation Officers who discover drug related crimes in the course of their daily activities.
To combat the differences in performance expectations, both education and training are much more rigorous than that of a patrol officer. Training for a Conservation Officer is designed to push each recruit to his or her limits, and teach them that giving up is not an acceptable option. Requirements are so physically taxing that approximately 45% of recruits do not complete the requisite courses, which include a physical fitness test, defensive tactics, military drill, watercraft patrol and enforcement, among others.
Of the remaining number, 27 applicants with the top overall performance are given probationary commissions throughout the state. During the probation period of one year they accompany seasoned officers in the standard daily routine, and at the end of that time assume the mantle of Conservation Officers. The salary today is not necessarily commiserate with the job functions, however, most Conservation Officers take pride in what they do, and find that the daily challenges make up for the lack in monetary compensation.
Women in the field are few and far between, and perhaps face an even more difficult acclimation than the male recruits. Competing with a group of men in physically demanding training, and a somewhat lacklustre acceptance by their male counterparts can be threatening. Although men dominate the ranks, women are making slow inroads, and proving they are just as capable of top performance. By doing so, they earn the respect and trust necessary to forge an equal partnership with other officers. In a personal interview with an Indiana Conservation Officer, when asked what his favourite aspect of the job was, he replied “Variety.
It’s challenging every day because you never know what kind of situation you might find yourself in, or what you might be called upon to do. As for my least favourite, I’d have to say long hours and rotating shifts. It’s a rewarding career, and one that I truly enjoy. ” (Officer Baily, South Region, District 5, July 2011) References DNR Historical Timeline (www. in. gov/DNR, retrieved August 2011) Essential Job Functions of Indiana Conservation Officers (Capt. David Windsor, IDNR, Law Enforcement Division, revised 2006)