The Law Enforcement Division has had a busy Summer and the Fall doesn’t appear to be slowing down at all. Of course, the first and most consistent priority that we have been working through is the implementation of Accreditation. Lt. Ham and his team have been working alongside other staff to create and implement over 85 new General Orders and countless other SOPs. Officers have been providing valuable feedback as these new GOs have been published and we continue to make the necessary changes to implement these in a fair and consistent fashion. We continue to appreciate everyone’s input, commitment, and patience as we work towards realizing full Accreditation.
In September, the Division had an opportunity to put together a list of Division achievements from the past year. The list was long, humbling, and impressive to say the least. Officers and other staff continue to provide Virginia’s sportsmen and other constituents with the highest level of service. While we cannot share all of them, here is our divisions “Top Ten.”
- The Division presented its first VCP Awards Ceremony that recognized division employees for a variety of outstanding achievements including professionalism, valor, meritorious service and lifesaving. Board Chairwoman Mamie Parker and Director Ryan Brown were guest speakers at this event.
- The division’s Boat Fraud and Theft Unit was selected from a nationwide pool of nominations for the prestigious Association of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Law Enforcement Award for 2020. They were presented this award at the 2020 AFWA Awards event.
- The DWR Law Enforcement Communications Center handled 58,734 CAD calls for DWR and DCR officers and staff. Calls for Service during 2019 were up 21%. November 2019 was a record-breaking month for the Center. First, November saw the largest number of Call for Service ever created for a single month, 6,832! That is an increase of over 500 calls from the previous November. Additionally, the opening day of the firearms deer season also saw a record breaking 499 Calls for Service created in a single day. That averaged out to be 100 calls per dispatcher, or one call made every 3 minutes.
- Officers with the LE Division made 8,412 case reports in 2019. This is a 36% increase in the number of cases from a year ago.
- Conservation Police K9 Officer Jim Patrillo was selected as the 2019 Conservation Police Officer of the Year. He will represent Virginia at the 2020 SEAFWA Conference.
- Conservation Police Officer Brett Clawson was selected as the 2019 NASBLA Boating Officer of the Year.
- The division expanded its K9 unit to nine teams in FY20. CPO Tyler Blanks and K9 Bruno, CPO Bonnie Braziel and K9 Grace, CPO Mark Diluigi and K9 Lily, and CPO Ian Ostlund and K9 Reese attended and completed DWR’s own K9 Academy beginning in February 2020. Officer Wes Billings and his new K9 partner Molly also completed the academy. Molly replaced retiring K9 Josie in May.
- Chesapeake Bay Magazine completed an outstanding story on the female CPOs employed by DWR. This media event reached thousands of citizens and constituents and has been highlighted in nearly every corner of Virginia and beyond.
- One project that was completed in FY20 was the construction of a 150’ radio monopole at DWR Headquarters. This “microwave tower” replaced the underground lines that currently support the Communication Center’s STARS radio system.
- In 2019, the division developed and implemented a sophisticated independent query tool, aptly named Zuercher Statistics (ZSTAT), which mirrors the data within the RMS system. By leveraging a daily export of data, ZSTAT can provide over 30 different reports based on officer/district and date range. This allows an officer to audit their statistics and contributions to the foundation database to ensure its accuracy. Supervisors and Command Staff can easily perform evaluations and compare activity uniformly across the state. Staff demonstrated this software during the 2019 Zuercher (Z1) national vendor user conference in South Dakota.
Law Staff have continued to deal with COVID related issues very well over the last 6-8 months. Officers have social distanced, utilized PPE as available, and made very good decisions related to their interaction with the public. While it certainly has not been business as usual, agency productivity is high and staff continue to adjust to the new norm. Law Division staff should notify their supervision should they have a PPE need. Supplies of PPE are being kept at each region office as well as HQ.
During the DWR Board Law Committee Meeting in September, we were humbled and honored to finally and officially present Sgt. Dan Hall with the 2020 Guy Bradley Award. The Guy Bradley Award honors state and federal wildlife enforcement officers for their commitment and performance to the protection of wildlife throughout their career. The leadership, innovation, experience, and wisdom Sgt. Hall has devoted to his work for the past 30 years embodies the spirit of this prestigious award. Not only has Dan’s work impacted his community by supporting and protecting Virginia’s wildlife and natural landscape, but his forward-thinking, nurturing approach to leadership will continue to benefit future Conservation Police Officers for years to come.
Finally, the division has committed to continuing its recognition of Breast Cancer Awareness and the use of Blaze Pink/Orange for October. 10 officers from all across the state volunteered to have their trucks donned with Blaze Pink decals. The agency continues to appreciate its partnership with Susan G. Komen and looks forward to hearing the many positive stories that these officers are able to share concerning the encouraging comments from the public.