The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) is proud to announce Senior Officer Brett L. Saunders has been named Conservation Police Officer of the Year 2009.
Brett Saunders began work for VDGIF in November 1985, and was assigned to Nottoway County where he continues to work today. Currently, his work area includes Lake Chesdin, Sandy River Reservoir and Briery Creek Lake.
Officer Saunders came to the Department not long after graduating from Southern Illinois University where he earned a Bachelor of Science in Zoology with a Wildlife Management emphasis. He has continued to build on his education by participating in a number of courses and programs including FEMA NIMS Introduction course; the National Hunter Ethics Seminar; Search and Rescue First Responder School; and more. In addition, he attended the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) Law Enforcement Instructors and Field Training Officer schools.
He has become an accomplished instructor and mentor. As a certified DCJC instructor, Officer Saunders has been involved in the Department’s Conservation Police Officer Training Academy and served as a Field Training Officer. Before Conservation Police Officers were even issued GPS receivers, Officer Saunders, recognizing their usefulness as a law enforcement tool, borrowed a GPS receiver from the Nottoway Extension Office and sought training from the Extension Agent. This action enhanced his ability to collect data and allowed him to produce stronger cases in the courts. Because of this knowledge, Saunders was chosen as an instructor in the use of GPS receivers in the VDGIF Academy, as well an instructor for district and regional GPS training. He has instructed a statewide audience in GPS technology at Outdoor Education events. He has also taught the use and applications of GPS receivers and the related mapping software to other groups with members from Virginia State Police, the U.S. Army, VDOT employees, and members of the Roanoke County Haz-Mat Team.
One area in which Officer Saunders really shines is in community outreach. He has written and professionally recorded 14 public service announcements covering hunting safety, boating safety, and regulation changes. These approved scripts and recordings have also been made available for use by officers in other districts and regions. He has provided educational outreach programs in both public and private schools in the counties of Amelia, Brunswick, Dinwiddie, Prince Edward and Prince George, as well as in him own county of Nottoway. In Nottoway specifically he has two annual programs that are presented to county students. The first is a presentation he makes to sixth graders that he developed using the Virginia Standards of Learning on the animals of Virginia. The second is a boating safety and water safety presentation that he makes to local third graders. In addition, Officer Saunders has helped coach the Nottoway Shooting Sports Team, a group of young men and women who routinely win awards at both the 4-H shooting sports competitions and at the VDGIF Hunter Education Championship.
Officer Saunders was one of the first to volunteer for deployment when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast and he was in the first group Virginia officers to respond to those affected areas.
In 1996, he was the recipient of the Officer of the Year Award from Southside Community College. This was an inaugural award presented by the college’s Administration of Justice Program based upon the recommendations of law enforcement supervisors from law enforcement agencies in Southside Virginia including county sheriff’s offices and local police departments.
When it comes to coordinating events, Saunders has demonstrated impressive credentials. He has planned, coordinated, and implemented a children’s fishing day at Fort Pickett for nine years. In fact, Officer Saunders has done so much in the development of outreach programs to promote hunting and fishing on Fort Pickett, he was presented with the Post Commander’s Award for Excellence, and on July 18, 2002, was presented with the Bronze Star Award for Meritorious Achievement by the Virginia National Guard. Officers Saunders is one of a hand full of civilians to be presented with that award.
For more than 23 years, Officer Saunders has set the standard for serving the Commonwealth of Virginia as a Conservation Police Officer. His devotion to duty and high moral and ethical outlook make for the consummate professional law enforcement officer. Whether it is in his interaction with the public one on one, or at youth events that he has coordinated, Officer Saunders is an excellent representative of the Department and as asset to furthering the agency’s mission. The Department and the citizens of the Commonwealth have benefited greatly from the commitment to duty and outstanding efforts of this officer. It is an honor to name Senior Officer Brett Saunders as the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries Officer of the Year 2009.