The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) named Conservation Police Officer Richard M. Howald the 2010 Conservation Police Officer of the Year. Howald joined VDGIF in 2005 as a recruit in the Law Enforcement Basic Academy and graduated in March 2006. At graduation he was given both the Most Physically Fit Award and the Board of Game and Inland Fisheries Award which is given to the recruit who displays exceptional overall performance during the entire course of training.
Prior to joining VDGIF, Howald served in the United States Marine Corp as a Sergeant with the 2nd Fleet Anti-Terrorism Team. His numerous skills immediately became an asset to the Department as he shared his knowledge and expertise with his fellow officers and new recruits. He has provided instruction to all VDGIF Conservation Police Officers in mantracking, defensive tactics, and physical fitness. In 2009, Howald received the Director’s Award an award presented at graduation by the agency director to the Basic Academy instructor voted best instructor by the class of recruits.
Since joining VDGIF, Richard Howald has been assigned to Appomattox County and continues to serve that locality and provide support across the region. In addition to his regular law enforcement duties, Howald has proven himself to be a highly professional leader eager to take on new duties and share his expertise. Most recently he was selected as one of the Law Enforcement Division’s three canine units in that newly launched program. He and Scout, a Labrador retriever, received extensive training and graduated from the Indiana K9 Training Academy in 2011. Scout’s specialized enforcement activities include: searches for missing persons and wanted subjects; locating illegally taken wildlife such as deer, bear, and turkey; evidence recovery; and participating in educational programs.
This new assignment builds on the impressive outreach work he was already doing in his community for sportsmen’s groups, civic organizations, schools and other youth organizations. One of Richard Howald’s most rewarding outreach programs in 2010 was participating in the outdoor “CSI” camp that was presented to 60 youths at Holiday Lake 4-H Educational Center. During this program students are presented with a mock crime scene and are provided information to help solve the crime. Topics covered include evidence recovery, fingerprinting, interviewing techniques, cast impressions, and photography. This is a 3-day 12-hour class and on the last day the students must present than findings and make an arrest. Officer Howald than evaluated their performance and provided constructive feedback.
The 2010 hunting season provided Officer Howald the opportunity to fully demonstrate his belief in teamwork and showed how he acts as a true resource to his fellow officers. There were seven hunting incidents within his working district of several counties last fall and Officer Howald served as lead investigator on one of these incidents and then willingly assisted his co-workers on the other six incidents. The incident on which he acted as lead investigator was unique in the fact that the hunters involved tried to misdirect him as to the actual circumstances and location of the incident. Using his excellent investigative abilities, mantracking expertise, and interview skills, Richard Howald, after a 4-hour investigation, uncovered the actual circumstances of the incident. He was able to get the hunters to confess that the incident had actually occurred in another county, that the shooter was actually a member of their hunting party who also happened to be a convicted felon who could not legally possess a firearm, and that the individual was hunting turkeys out of season when the incident occurred. That individual was charged and found guilty. In addition, the hunters who mislead the officer were charged and convicted of providing false statements to a law enforcement officer.
Officer Howald effectively and efficiently handles calls from the routine to the complex and readily accepts difficult assignments. He has not only established this reputation with his supervisors and coworkers but also with many officers from numerous other law enforcement agencies. This was no more evident than in January 2010, when Richard Howald was called to assist in Appomattox County where one of the worst multiple murder cases in Virginia had just occurred. In total, eight people were killed at the shooter’s residence before law enforcement was notified and able to arrive on the scene. Investigators were familiar with Officer Howald’s mantracking knowledge and requested his support in locating the suspect in a wooded area. After the suspect was taken into custody, Officer Howald used his skills and training to recover key evidence in this pending case.
A recent example of his positive and cooperative attitude came when a neighboring county in his work area did not have a Conservation Police Officer assigned to it. Officer Howald was asked by his supervisor to cover Buckingham County. Without hesitation, he stepped up and filled in by patrolling the county and making sure that the citizens knew that an officer would be available when needed. He immediately made an impact as he made numerous cases in just a short period of time.
As a lead member of the Department’s Tracking Team, Richard Howald eagerly volunteers to provide instruction to interested officers. Recently, he assisted with coordination of a multi-agency tracker training exercise for members of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies. This training consisted of a scenario where multiple suspects were on foot in a wooded area and were considered armed and dangerous. During the training, Officer Howald was able to provide instruction in the use of GPS, compass, mapping, and the use of aerial support in conjunction with man tracking. He also served as an evaluator and observed one of the tracking teams in action. Richard was then able to provide valuable feedback to the officers, which will assist them in real life situations.
Officer Richard Howald has an exemplary record in serving the Commonwealth of Virginia as a Conservation Police Officer and has made a tremendous impact during his service with VDGIF. He is a motivator to other Conservation Police Officers who consider it a privilege to work with him. His genuine concern for protecting natural resources coupled with his professionalism, excellent working relationships, and his confidence and ability to represent the Department in public forums make him the ideal Conservation Officer of the Year. Both the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries and the citizens of Virginia have benefited greatly from the efforts of this conscientious officer.