DNR welcomes 22 new conservation officers

The 22 graduates of the recent Michigan Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Recruit School are pictured on the Capitol steps in Lansing. Also pictured are academy instructors and several members of the DNR Law Enforcement Division command staff. (Photo courtesy of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources)

LANSING — Twenty-two men and women have graduated from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources Conservation Officer Recruit School, completing a rigorous, 23-week journey that was intended to challenge them every step of the way.

Family members, instructors, DNR officials and DNR Law Enforcement Division leadership attended the ceremony, held recently at the training academy in Lansing. Graduates received their completion certificates and badges, with family members pinning the badges on their loved ones.

The unique role of DNR conservation officers requires candidates to undergo some of the longest, most comprehensive law enforcement training in the nation. Upon graduation, these men and women achieve certification as law enforcement officers through the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards.

The new officers will report for duty in their assigned counties and serve in a probationary capacity under the supervision of experienced conservation officers for one year, which includes more than 20 weeks of additional specialized training.

“It takes a special person to accept the responsibilities that come with protecting Michigan’s natural resources and citizens,” DNR Director Keith Creagh, who delivered the keynote address to graduates, said in a news release. “These men and women endured the academic and physical demands of recruit school because they want to serve our state. In addition to being front-line defenders of our natural resources, they play an essential role in ensuring the safety of our communities, often serving as first responders when emergencies arise. I’m proud to welcome them to the DNR.”

The graduating class is composed of 16 males and six females. Three new officers are from the Upper Peninsula, 16 are from the Lower Peninsula and three are from out of state.

“The academy is about more than just building quality conservation officers,” Gary Hagler, chief of DNR’s Law Enforcement Division, said in a news release. “It’s also about developing quality people. When I look at the caliber of these men and women, there’s no doubt we succeeded on both counts. From today forward, these new officers will dedicate their lives to upholding the law, guarding our natural resources, protecting citizens and being good members of their communities. They’ve earned their badges and we look forward to welcoming them to our ranks.”

Upper Peninsula probationary conservation officers and their county assignments upon completing field training are Joshua Boudreaux, Marquette County; Jennifer Hanson and Zachary Painter, Gogebic County; Stephen Butzin, Delta County; Cody Smith, Baraga County; and Justin Vinson, Luce County.

In addition to general law enforcement training, recruits must learn skills unique to a conservation officer’s duties, such as fish and game identification. They also were trained in areas including precision driving, self-defense tactics, water safety, legal training, outdoor survival, firearms, handling child abuse and neglect cases, securing crime scenes, first aid and executing search warrants, to name a few.

The DNR currently has 209 sworn conservation officers. If all 22 graduates complete their probationary periods that total will stand at 231 officers.

Learn more at www.michigan.gov/conservationofficers.